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Doctoring Lessons Learned Working in Fast Food

Are you applying to medical school? This can be one of the most stressful times of you life, but sheMD is here to help! Dr. Alyssa Burgart shares with us some lessons she's learned working in fast food!

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When pre-meds imagine what work will help them become a physician, I doubt many consider a job in fast food.

Maybe they should.

Here are Six Fast Food lessons that apply to doctoring:

As a doctor, I'm still using lessons I learned working at In-N-Out as a college student.

1 - Show Up Ready to Work, Early

Do I have everything I need for my shift? Am I dressed, fed, and watered? Do I have my name badge? Basically cannot function in the hospital without a badge.

I get anxious if I’m going to be late, so I prefer to be 5 minutes early! Not a bad skill for an anesthesiologist.

2 - Sweep the Floor and Shuck the Lettuce

I'm not "too good" or "too smart" or "too special" for any aspect of the job.

• I clean up my messes

• When needed, I mop the OR floors.

• Patient needs a blanket? I grab it.

• Pre-op nurse running behind? I pull the pre-med.

This is not to say that I’m eager to do other folks jobs. It’s important to figure out what systems issues are contributing to the overwhelm. But in the moment, I do what needs to be done to help the patient and my co-workers.

Regarding, cleaning up after myself - that’s just good citizenship. It’s incredibly rude to make a mess and then think someone else is going to tidy up. I work with contaminated needles. By cleaning up after myself, I help ensure someone else doesn’t get hurt by my messy work station.

3 - Actively Listen to the Customer

In fast food, you have to listen closely to get a customer's food order correctly.

I don’t think of patients as customers, but I do consider active listening to be a superpower. If I'm busy waiting to speak, I'm not listening and will miss something important that matters to the patient. Listening closely to the patient means I can pick up on their worries, goals and values. I can ensure our expectations are aligned.

4 - Repeat Back the Customer's Order

Knowing the patient's priorities makes a huge difference. Make sure you got everything right by repeating the order.

Miss something that matters to the patient? Now is the time to correct it - not later.

5 - Work Hard, Still Struggle To Make Ends Meet

I worked 38 hrs/week on top of a full course load in junior college. No benefits because I wasn't "full-time." I learned how hard it was to work while in school, pay tuition, pay rent, and stay afloat. I struggled to find the cheapest used textbooks and conserved gas.

My patients and their parents often struggle to make ends meet working in the service industry and gig economy. I have the luxury of financial security now, but I haven’t forgotten what it was like to have an empty checking account. This helps me avoid assumptions about what financial worries a family may be facing. I also don’t complain about how hard work or how much money I make. Healthcare has lots of issues, but I know how much harder my life could be.

6 - Team Work Makes All the Difference

Every day, my feet hurt & I smelled like a grill, but I was happy to go back each shift because I worked with some lovely people.

Who you work with matters. Having a great manager and team makes every tough job easier and more fun. It makes every hard day a little better.

It’s important to me to be a force for good at work - I want to be someone people are happy to work with. I want staff to feel safe bringing me their concerns and their feedback. Bringing a generous and loving attitude to my work helps support the team. We can all do better work together.

Coming from a family with lower financial resources meant I needed to work in fast food to go to college. It wasn’t glamorous work, but I was able to learn valuable lessons I apply to doctoring today. Entry-level jobs can provide a way to stay afloat while you pursue your educational goals.

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