This fall Katie Tietz debuted her book Self-Care for the Healthcare Professional: How to gain confidence, take control, and have a balanced and successful career. Katie, who is currently an occupational therapist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California is also a certified mindset coach, a skill she uses both in her practice and to inspire her writing, which is a combination of personal stories, educational content, and activities at the end of each chapter. Read on to learn more about what motivated Katie to write her book.
What sparked your interest in becoming an OT?
Honestly, I just kind of followed what felt right. Before becoming an OT, or even knowing what an OT was, I worked with children and adults with learning and developmental disabilities. I worked in a variety of settings… as a respite worker in the home and community, in an adult learning center, and a pre-school as a 1:1 aide. The child I worked with in pre-school had major food aversions. At the adult learning center we worked on building daily life skills. As a respite provider I worked on community integration and encouraged appropriate leisure pursuits. I was drawn to these jobs because they promoted independence and quality of life. I thought there could be no better career than to bring this to others. That’s when I found out what occupational therapy was, and it was a no brainer. It wasn’t really an interest that was sparked… it was more like a realization of a true calling.
Why did you want to write a book focusing on self-care for healthcare professionals?
I wanted to write this book because I think self-care is incredibly important. It’s important for all people, but in a career where you give so much of yourself to others, I would argue that it’s even more important. I would even go as far to say that if you’re not practicing self-care as a healthcare professional, it could become a patient safety issue. If you are burned out and frustrated with your career, that leaves a lot of room for error… not to mention the negative energy that you drag around with you, from patient to patient. I wanted to write this book so that healthcare professionals can learn how to serve others from their overflow, instead of scraping the bottom for any last drops in an already empty cup. As the saying goes, we have to fill our cups first before we can give to others.
Do you find that self-care for health professionals is a “taboo” topic when the focus is supposed to be care for patients/clients?
I think that it certainly can be. We’re all givers. We all have strong empathy for others. We wouldn’t be in this profession if we weren’t. So naturally, as givers, when the topic arises of ‘taking’ (taking time for your own self-care), it might make us feel uncomfortable, selfish, or even guilty – and those aren’t nice feelings! Unless you have someone telling you that you don’t have to feel guilty and that self-care is not selfish, then you’ll likely continue down that spiral of burnout and compassion fatigue. Then what does that look like for your patient? What does that look like for your loved ones? What does that look like for you? My goal is really to modify that thinking pattern that self-care in healthcare is somehow forbidden. I think that by practicing daily self-care we actually do better by our patients and loved ones. We are able to give more, provide more, and practice more patience and understanding. With that in mind, self-care should be a part of our job descriptions, not the taboo topic that it can sometimes be.
How did your own experiences shape the writing of the book, and how did your time at NYU Steinhardt influence your professional life?
My own experience is what made this book! Both of my experiences as a new graduate OT and the daughter of a mother who was in and out of hospitals and sub-acute nursing facilities for years, is what prompted me to write this book. I saw the signs of early burnout in myself as a provider and I saw many nurses, doctors and therapists who clearly struggled with compassion fatigue and burnout when my mom was in the hospital. My experiences acted like this informal needs assessment – and this book, I guess you could say, is the treatment plan!
My time at NYU Steinhardt undoubtedly helped to shape this book as well. Every single day I think of Kristie Koenig’s words to us during our pediatrics course. She said, “It’s really easy to be a bad OT.” When I began my career I started to realize just how true that statement had been. It was disheartening at first, but that statement continues to motivate me to this day! My time at NYU, all of the professors, all my classmates… they mean so much to me. They set the bar high for professional standards, and personally they all hold a very special place in my heart.
Do you have plans for more writing? What’s next for you?
I would love to do more writing in the future! I really enjoy the writing process and the creation aspect. Although I don’t have anything specific to write about at the moment, I’m sure that life will unfold and opportunities will arise. And as Anita Perr used to tell us, “Always say yes to an opportunity!”
In terms of what’s next, my goal is to get this book in the hands of as many healthcare professionals as possible. I truly believe that it will change lives when utilized to it’s full potential. I’m currently bringing this information to the staff at my own hospital, co-creating our “Lighthouse Initiative” with a couple of my brilliant co-workers, and hope to spread the message to other hospitals, clinics, and universities as well. I also plan to continue my coaching with Health Pro Mindset and help healthcare professionals to maximize their personal and professional potentials!