You try to hide it.
You leave the scrubs in the locker room, the shop talk at the staff dining hall and the on-call phone consults outside in the cold, away from the highly-anticipated dinner date or holiday party.
But regardless how much effort you put into leaving your career where it belongs, it is so obvious that you work in a hospital.
And here are three reasons why.
1. You use words in daily conversation that only have meaning in a hospital setting.
The day-to-day life in a medical center involves the use of vernacular that entirely diverges from normal dialect outside of the hospital. And similar to your futile use of Spanglish when chatting with Latino patients, you can't help but subconsciously slip in and out of this medical lingo during casual conversations with friends and family. After all, the pharmaceutical patter that you speak during most of your waking hours truly becomes your first language.
So the next time you have coffee plans with your old college classmate and actually want to make sense, please use your words carefully:
-- When getting the scoop about your buddy's rocky relationship, don't raise the question over his girlfriend's "disposition."
-- While hashing out vacation plans, reconsider the word choice "armamentarium" when describing the collection of hiking supplies stashed in your attic.
-- Don't "elicit personal history." Ask about the newest gossip. Don't "endorse a sad affect." Say you feel crappy. If you truly use these terms outside of the hospital, consider an extended sabbatical.
It is no easy task to suppress medical jargon in your social life when these terms have a tendency to invade your dreams, but unless you want to be pigeonholed as a one-dimensional career person, I suggest you brush up on your English.
2. You always have some leftover medical supply in your pocket outside of work.
Next time you decide to head out to a happy hour event or an evening show straight from the hospital, make sure that one of your colleagues gives you a thorough once over before doing so. Ninety-three percent of the time, there will be an item from the day's work leftover somewhere on your person (Secemsky, 2012, unpublished/not written).
Best-case scenario: removing a stethoscope from your coat or purse prior to arriving to the after-work event. Worst-case scenario: mistaking a packet of lubrication you had to carry around during patient rounds for a stick of gum while socializing at said event.
3. You belittle everyone's problems.
Ever since you started working at a hospital, each and every ailment brought up by your friends and family has become increasingly trivial to you. After all, you spend more hours in a week dealing with serious illness than any other life activity.
Therefore, you have every right to politely disregard your cousin's resolving rash or best friend's day-long cough. However, beware of the rocky road to complete indifference.
Your profession becomes clearly evident (and you appear quite jaded) the moment you brush off physical complaints from those close to you that perhaps do require medical attention. Keep in mind that your buddy's dislocated shoulder needs more than just ice. That massive splinter on your kid's bottom from the discounted playhouse you bought him will not suddenly disengage on its own (thanks again Dad).
Regardless of the true insignificance of your loved ones' symptoms, you must show some kind of empathy in order to remain professionally elusive. And even if it's already known that you work in a hospital, it's probably a good idea to do so anyway.
Give it enough time, and most if not all people you socialize with outside of the hospital will discover that you work in the medical field. Although there's nothing wrong with this, recognizing and avoiding the main tendencies that make your career stereotypically evident will help you leave work where it belongs and allow you to focus on life outside of the hospital.
Until then, make sure to always check your pockets.
For more by Brian Secemsky, M.D., click here.
For more on personal health, click here.