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How working in healthcare made me a better copywriter

When I first decided to become a copywriter, I was nervous at the thought of just how much I would have to learn. Here I was diving into a brand new career after spending the last 3 years as an Occupational Therapy Assistant working on a Brain Injury Unit. 

They couldn’t be more different. 

And I mean, yeah, I had my Advertising degree from college, but that felt like eons ago. 

But after taking the plunge, I realized that — somehow — most of the skills I’d learned from my healthcare job had unexpectedly prepared me to thrive as a copywriter. 

Which let me tell ya, was a relief

I learned how to go with the flow every single day

When you walk into a patient’s room in an inpatient rehab hospital, you never know what you’re going to walk into. From medical emergencies, toileting mishaps (so many toileting mishaps), and skeptical family members — and everything in between — it’s all too common for you to have to quickly re-adjust your treatment plan for that session based on where the patient’s at. 

Maybe instead of practicing sitting balance exercises down in the gym, you’re helping them get dressed while seated on the edge of their bed safely because they didn’t get dressed yet. Or instead of doing that standing balance activity you prepped, you guide them through performing their grooming tasks while standing at the sink, because they just ate and want to brush their teeth real fast.

And with copywriting, the same unpredictability is true. Client’s schedules are likely gonna change and that call you had for tomorrow might have to get changed to a half hour from now. Or the photographer who wanted her home page to focus on the quality of their photos now wants to just focus on the experience and so you have to backtrack.

I learned how change my language to make my message clearer

In the unit I was on, I worked with people with all different cognitive and communication impairments. And so because of that, I had to speak with each patient differently so they could understand what I was asking of them. 

I’ll be honest — this skill took a little while to get! I tend to over explain when sometimes a simple “reach here” is all you need.  

And the same is very true for copywriting, on both of those levels. 

First, you’ve gotta know who you’re talking to. How do they speak? What are they into? What are they looking for, and what are their frustrations? All of these things impact the copy you write, so it’s important to keep them in mind. 

And secondly, it taught me that simple is always better. I’ll keep that one at that 😉

I learned how to take unique steps to meet unique goals

Every patient I worked with had vastly different needs and end goals. Some patients were higher-level and needed help managing more complicated functional tasks, like setting up medications or managing their online banking. Others were much lower-level, and our main focus was teaching a family member to safely get them in and out of bed. 

And so I needed to be able to work with each of them differently to help anticipate their needs and achieve those goals. 

Similarly, copywriting requires you to closely look at each client’s business with a magnifying glass (this is where my questionnaire really works its magic!) to understand every single thing about it and their ideal clients. 

Because once you know all of that, then you’re able to write copy that supports it. 

I learned how not to take things personally

When working with patients of varying levels of function every single day and staff members of all disciplines, you’re bound to walk in on some not-so-fun moods. Like the confused patient who keeps trying to swat you as you try to help them, the intimidating nurse who rolls her eyes at every time you try to talk to her, or the family member who disagrees with each recommendation you give them. You experience it all. 

And in order to keep your sanity, you have to go into it knowing that absolutely none of this is personal. These reactions are usually just the other person’s reactions to what they’re experiencing. It’s a mirror to their own beliefs and mindset. And you’re just there getting the brunt of it, even though all you’re trying to do is help people, damnit!

With copywriting, you also can’t take anything personally. As my mentor and favorite copywriter ever told me (it’s Sarah from Between the Lines Copy, in case you wanna stalk her — which you should), you and your writing are separate. If someone doesn’t like something you write, it has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It’s entirely a different thing. 

Spoiler: I haven’t mastered this one juuust yet.

I learned how to work with other disciplines to succeed

One of my faveee parts of working in a hospital is collaborating with other disciplines. On a daily basis, I was working with speech and physical therapists, nurses, doctors, more senior therapists, recreational therapists, and family members. All with the same goal in mind of helping patients. 

And let’s just say that as a former shy kid and teen, this didn’t come right away. But it was a skill I built up overtime, and now as a copywriter for small businesses, I have no problem calling up or emailing a client’s web designer to confirm a small detail, or a hotel manager to find out more about their amenities.

I learned the importance of taking care of myself

Working in a hospital was probably one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had (and I used to call alumni in college to ask for donations for the school, which was no picnic). And the burnout from the constant vicious cycle of thoughts, the stress over making sure my patients discharge planning isn’t missing anything, and the constant uncertainty over possible medical emergencies (and literally 54 other things) taught me a lot about taking care of myself. Both mentally and physically. 

And now as a copywriter with my own business and a mom of a wild, no-fear toddler, I still know how important it is that I keep on taking care of myself. Whether that’s building in just 10 minutes in the morning for me, giving myself a walking break every so often, or making sure I’m actually taking time to three meals a day. 

I mean you know the whole put-your-mask-on-first-saying. It’s the same thing. 

So if you’re also taking the plunge and starting your own business — or a new career — 

hopefully this post gives you a chance to look at your own skillset and realize how diverse it really is. There’s no time wasted, because you’re always learning. 

And no matter what direction you want to expand your career into, you probably already have more of the tools than you think you do. 

If you’ve just started your business and are struggling with writing up your website copy, send me a message so we can chat about how I can help!

Hey there, I’m Kristie! I write website and email copy for service-based businesses and creatives who want to build meaningful relationships with their clients *and* not drown in the overwhelm of being a business-owner.

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