Nothing makes one better at their job as a healthcare marketing art director than actually experiencing healthcare firsthand. I’ve always been relatively healthy—doing my fair share of exercising physically and mentally, and eating “kinda” well. I rarely visited my doctor’s office, except for the usual appointments. More honestly, I steered clear of doctor visits almost entirely. I routinely even avoided taking ibuprofen for common aches and pains associated with running. As healthcare marketing creatives, we put ourselves in the shoes of patients to find out what messaging resonates with them. Pretty ironic stuff—here I am in this healthcare advertising world that I clearly try to avoid in my non-working world through my own preventive measures. I’ve gleaned a solid chunk of my healthcare knowledge purely from being surrounded by it for the past 10 years—concepting campaigns, learning about healthcare technology, reading statistics, focus groups, etc. You can gain a lot of information that way (and I have), but to experience healthcare firsthand was an area that I personally lacked.

It wasn’t until I became pregnant that I really stepped into the role of a patient. Coincidentally enough, I was working on a pregnancy campaign for a client at the same time. Sorting through the emotions, fears, joys and anticipations of being pregnant gave me invaluable insight into this new world that many other expecting women feel. Although no two women are the same—and experience pregnancy differently—I felt that I could empathize.

So, here I go from practically no doctor visits to visiting once a month, to once a week to every other day. Poked, prodded, blood drawn, tests done, ultrasounds, countless weigh-ins, blood pressure readings. Getting admitted to the hospital, going through 20-some hours of labor, to having an urgent c-section at the last minute. A few days’ stay at the hospital for me, a NICU room for baby, recovery from abdominal surgery, to the battle lines of those first days and nights home with a newborn. And now we’re living through the inaugural gauntlet of daycare sicknesses. Fun stuff!

I can’t claim to have been through it all, but I’ve been through enough to know. I’m a patient and I’m a mom. And, now I get it. I totally get it. It makes me a better art director. A better creative thinker. A better empathizer. And that’s what patients want. To be heard and well-cared for.