Advocacy Fatigue – How Did I End Up Here?
Author: Natalie Jack
Picture this – you’re a dedicated allied health professional, and have always been happy to put your hand up to be on some committee or other, or to help organise the next event. You see this as part of your role in, and responsibility to, your professional community. It looks good on your resume, you enjoy engaging with the profession in this way and supporting your peers. You always answer those well meaning but often uninformed emails, phone calls and questions from colleagues, clients, carers and strangers with grace and respect.
This is how it’s always been. Until now.
Now, if one more person asks a half-joking, passive aggressive or just plain stupid question about your profession, you just might lose it. You wonder what is happening to you. You also wonder why, after all of these years of explaining, educating and advocating, people still. Don’t. Get it. What the heck?! I’ll tell you what. It’s called advocacy fatigue.
Many of us feel this way, we feel like we’ve ‘run out of puff’ for these additional education and advocacy activities, and it makes us nervous at best, and guilty at worst. Why are we no longer happy to contribute in this way? What has changed? In truth, this is a very normal reaction to the continual advocacy many of us do in micro and macro ways, every single day. Against a health system that sometimes doesn’t show it values the allied health workforce, politicians and media who talk all about how amazing the ‘doctors and nurses’ have been throughout the pandemic, and the joker in the elevator at work who makes a dumb quip about occupational therapists ’throwing parties’ or music therapists ‘playing music to old rock stars to help them feel better’. Yes. Someone actually said that to me, in real life, and I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes and snorting, and instead managed a semi-polite laugh and a “No, not really”, before I turned and hightailed it out of there.
Professional advocacy can feel like a soul sucking, energy thieving process of banging your head against a brick wall. When you find yourself in this place remember, it’s ok to take a break from this unpaid labour. It’s ok to resign from committees, say no to this year’s conference organising committee, and to focus on you for a while. There are others who can take up the advocacy baton and run with it. There will always be other opportunities for you to take up in the future. Taking a break will help you avoid becoming resentful, and allow you to re-engage with advocacy work again when you’re ready.
Also, get some supervision around this issue, chances are your peer or professional supervisor has been through it too.