The athletic trainer is often spread thin to meet the needs of his or her employer, athletes, coaches, team physicians, athletic director, and parents. Many of us understood the trials of this profession before graduating with our bachelor’s degree, however, being our young and go-getting selves we pushed on, determined to overcome. After a few years as a certified I began to see how the stressors of being an athletic trainer could possibly not be worth their weight.
Issues such as a hectic schedule, difficulty getting time off, and troubles being respected as a healthcare professional once seemed a small “payment” for the profession I adored. Difficult coaches, know-it-all parents, and isolation compound the difficulties and seem to exponentially raise stress levels. When I put my all into an evaluation just to be questioned by a coach or come up with an extensive return-to-activity plan for a patient too lazy to complete it, returning to work the following day with enthusiasm becomes more and more challenging.
In stressful times it is all too easy to forget why I still don my khaki’s daily yet I return smiling each day. I remind myself that for each stressful event and negative comment there are multiple positive interactions and happenings that may not shine through in my mind during an emotionally cloudy day. Too easily forgotten are the times I’ve made a positive difference in a patient’s life.
There are some tactics that seem to help me meet the challenges of my position with positivity and resilience. Hopefully my stress relieving tips that I have learned over the years can come in handy for you as well. Check out the list below and let me know in the comments what your most effective way of dealing with stress as an athletic trainer is!
Stay Positive – As long as I am positive and can wear a smile my patients usually reciprocate that energy. Whether in the athletic training room or life, what you focus on determines how you feel. Look for the positive things happening around you and focus on that. It feels much better than the alternative.
Practice Empathy – Being more empathetic to the feelings or mindsets of others can help me appreciate their stance and I can better understand how to interact with them. Seeing things through the athlete’s eyes have opened my eyes to the challenges they are dealing with and have helped me help them more effectively.
Remember Why You Started – When I remember a deep rooted reason for wanting to be an athletic trainer I write it on a list and keep the list in a planner or in the top drawer of my desk where I’ll always see it. During especially helpful times I reference this list to help me remember why it is that I come to work every day.
Record Your Accomplishments – Every time I get a card, a thank you text, a picture with a patient, a medal from a district finals game, etc., I put it in a file folder. Each time I am feeling especially stressed, going through that file has never failed to put a smile on my face. Remind yourself of why you were once an eager young professional and strike a mental tally mark for each life you touch today.
Simplify Things – If you find much of your prep time is taken up by regularly taping your whole team, really stress the importance of using preventative ankle braces as this will make you feel less rushed and you know your athletes are still getting the best care.
Seek Help – If you’re feeling unusually bogged down by a rough interaction or a stubborn injury remember these tactics and find others that work for you. Talk to your supervisor if necessary and make sure to take the time necessary to care for your own physical and emotional wellbeing.
Practice Positive Daily Rituals – Every day I ask myself some basic questions to help put me in a positive mindset. What am I grateful for? What am I most proud of? Who do I love and who loves me? What can I do today to be a better Athletic Trainer, Mom, Dad, Friend, etc. I find that when I ask myself these question I always find a positive answer which puts me in a great state of mind to handle the days events.
Think Ahead – Think of the end of your school year or current season, pretend it’s been the best yet! What made it the best? Did you communicate with other healthcare practitioners better? Did you send daily injury reports to every coach to quench their wish for minute-to-minute updates? Make these goals for the season that lies ahead and break them down into smaller steps.
Get a Jump Start on Tasks – Set up a time at the beginning or end of your next shift to update documents like your injury reports, interactions and communications, and daily treatments. Letting these tasks grow on your to-do list will only magnify your stress levels and it becomes more difficult to remember everything. An extra half hour of updates is worth the clear head.
Use Dictation – I often will record a dictated injury report or interaction with a parent, coach, or boss onto my phone. It is automatically time-stamped and it makes typing it out a breeze!
If you’re not already, become a preceptor! Being able to foster the love of athletic training in another person helps you feel better about your position. Don’t forget, too, that they share the work load!
Clarify Schedules – Create or make sure you are invited to a shared calendar between coaches, athletic director, and school. It’s all too frustrating when you are the only person to show up for an 8AM practice that was, apparently, cancelled.
Written by Leann Thibo
Leann Thibo has been a secondary school athletic trainer since graduating with her master's degree in 2013. She is currently the full time athletic trainer at a private high school in Northeast Ohio. Leann has had a passion for athletic training since acting as a student aid in high school.