OVER THE LAST few months, I’ve given how to AVOID emotional exhaustion some thought. I’m idealistic, still, and think I could never burn out as a nurse. Ha. Ha. Ha. Right. Sure I could.
But I don’t have to — not if I learn from my own experience working as a doula. See, I’ve been doing doula work for some six years, and while I’ve had a few exhausting moments where I swore I would never again go to a 27-hour labor, take one more new client or squeeze one more set of hips for 10 hours, I haven’t burned out yet.
And here is why:
1. I keep clear boundaries. My doula clients are that — clients. While many go on to become friends, I simply don’t see them that way while they’re paying me for doula services. Sometimes it’s tricky — because I do have some clients I consider friends — but I work at it keeping the lines clear.
2. I get my own emotional needs met elsewhere. While I enjoy my work with clients and relish the time we have together and am glad to have a job that is, most times, emotionally fulfilling, I do not depend on my clients to meet my needs. I’m there to meet theirs. That means I have other ways, other people, who meet my needs — for me, that’s my husband and the few friends, relationships and other activities I have.
3. I make sure I and my clients understand the objective(s) and the parameters of our relationship. As their doula, for example, I list out what they “get” from me and on what terms. We talk about the relationship before we embark on it, making sure we’re both clear on what our expectations are. We try to objectify things as much as possible — leaves less room for troubles. Turns out, this principle is fundamental in nursing care, I’m learning in the classroom and on the hospital units.
4. I reserve the right to distance myself from or grow closer to clients as it seems appropriate. For example, there are some clients I offer a little more of my personal life to. For others, however, just the opposite is effective. If I’ve had an experience very similar to a client’s, for example, I am often compelled to share more — so long as I believe it will be helpful to do so.
5. And that is the bottom line and my No. 5: I keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CLIENT. In most service work, it is imperative to remove one’s self and think, mostly, about what will actually HELP the client achieve the goal of your relationship with him or her. In doula work and nurses’ work, quite often, the goal is to help the client become more self-sufficient, believe it or not. Sometimes, then, a more “aloof” or seemingly “sterile” relationship is very necessary.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, doula, midwife’s assistant and student nurse pursuing a minor in complementary and alternative medicine from Elkhart. Contact her at email@example.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”