Blurred Lines: When My Work in Healthcare Became Personal, Again and Again

Nov 24, 2021

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And a writer. I had no idea as an idealistic young lady that there wasn’t really a career that combined the two disciplines.

And when I learned how long I had to go to school to be a pediatrician, I leaned in a little more on the writing.

It wasn’t until I had leaned way into writing and four years of Journalism school that I got my first job at a multi-hospital research health system. I learned quickly that I could combine my three passions—helping people, healthcare and writing. I was not the one performing the lifesaving transplants, but through my writing I got to share the stories of two sisters who shared a lifesaving kidney transplant and encourage others to be organ donors. It was a great fit. I thought of it as writing. I had learned in Journalism school how to write a lead, a body and a close. I never thought of what I did as storytelling.

Then, as if it couldn’t get any better, I got a job as a writer at a pediatric hospital. I met awe-inspiring families struggling through unimaginable heartache but taking me along and allowing me into their lives to tell their story and show how they battled adversity with strength, bravery and grace.

I got to see the loving way nurses and doctors approached children and their families. I got to see the way parents looked bravely at their children and told them it was going to be OK even when they weren’t sure. I was humbled and grateful for each and every family. I remember thinking that I was so glad to be able to tell their stories but could never imagine being in their shoes. I had found my place: healthcare and writing. But then something happened that changed my perspective completely.

The Tide Turned

About two years into my job, I had children. My son and daughter are 18 months apart in age. When my daughter was six months old, she began to have seizures. We spent weeks in the hospital trying to find the root cause—from a brain tumor to epilepsy—what we found was that she had a stroke at birth and had cerebral palsy. When my son was two, he was diagnosed with autism. What had been unimaginable to me about the lives of those parents had become my life. We spent many days and nights with doctors, nurses, therapists—my colleagues—and now my child’s caregiver. I was the one of the parents that I had been writing about.

Why It Matters

My children have been a consistent source of joy and inspiration to me. I know that doesn’t make me unique as a parent, but when they were young, we journeyed through a lot together in ways I never thought I would experience. All the times I wrote those patient stories, I never knew one day it would be me.

I’m happy to report they are both thriving, active teenagers now. What I learned is that in some way for all of us, healthcare is personal. Whether it’s an aging parent, your own health challenges, or a child, when we walk through our healthcare system as a patient or a caregiver of a patient, it changes us.

For me, it changed the way I write. It changed the way I tell the story of the latest innovation in EHRs. It changed the way I appreciate the passion and selfless care that every single position in the healthcare ecosystem puts into what they do.

I think it’s easy as PR and Marketing professionals to get robotic and apathetic in the way that we amplify a brand or write a blog. What we should remember is that at the end of that journey is a real person with a real story. And you never know when that might be you. Write with your heart. Bring your own story in the passion you have for what you do. It will never steer you wrong.

Elizabeth Schwartz

Elizabeth Schwartz is an accomplished healthcare and health tech marketing brand ambassador, storyteller, strategic thinker and hands-on PR pro, with proven success driving thought leadership and ROI. She has 25 years of marketing experience, successfully leading and implementing programs for product marketing, sales enablement, customer success, buyer journey marketing, and data-driven marketing. While at LexisNexis, Elizabeth won several awards including the CEO Award for Sharing Customer Success; National Sales Success Award; and the Culture Values Award. Her PR proficiency spans writing, media relations, message development, executive communications, thought leadership and brand positioning. She has been recognized for Excellence in Medical Writing by Sunshine Media. Most recently, Elizabeth worked as director of marketing and communications at Curation Health. She has worked with leading research hospitals and healthcare IT companies including McKesson, Change Healthcare, LexisNexis and MedAssets, leveraging public relations, digital strategy, social media, content and multi-touch marketing campaigns. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Journalism degree with a concentration in magazine feature writing from the University of Georgia.