I just happened to see an old blog-post from The Huffington post, shared on Facebook (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/starla-fitch-md/personal-health_b_5499371.html), about the 4 things doctors don’t do, and I was compelled to write this.
I have made no secret of the fact that I was once a very stressed, burnt out surgeon. I even stayed away from surgery for a couple of years. Once I got back into it, I promised myself that nothing would drive me to that point ever again. I must admit, that in the initial few years after that, I probably could not do all the things I wanted to do, to keep sane. The job I got was incredibly busy, I had two young children, and there was no way I could take time to myself. But I did do some things that helped me manage the stress in my life, and prevent burn out.
1. Learn something new every year (outside of medicine): The first year of my practice, I found that I was always second-guessing myself, and having nightmares of bad surgical complications. That is when I decided to take a course in Interior Design! Well, that was probably one of the smartest things I did, because now, I was dreaming of colours, floor plans, and the like. This ave me a much more pleasant sleeping experience than I ever had! I completed the course with flying colours, and this boosted my self-esteem too. Once that was done, and after a short break, I did a Self-Realization course, which lasted 5 years. I keep learning – and will probably do so all my life.
2. Volunteer in the Community: When I was first approached to sit on the board of an organization, I reluctantly agreed. However, once I started attending their meetings, I met so many nice people, outside of my work environment, with so many different experiences and perspectives. This was a great experience, for it gave me a more balanced view of everything. I now coach an FLL robotics team, of 9 – 14 year olds, who are some of the smartest, funniest and lovable kids I know. They keep me grounded, and teach me a lot in the process.
3. Eat Lunch: I made a commitment a few years ago, to keep my Fridays light. I do not book any routine appointments, but will still round on my in-patients, and deal with any paper-work or urgent consultations if need be. But I do make it a point to meet up with my friends from various walks of life, for a meal every so often. Of course, when I don’t book office appointments, I don’t get paid, since I work a ‘fee-for-service’ model. However, I am so much more at peace, and I don’t have to be in my office until all hours on the weekends, doing paper-work. And now, with the Electronic medical records, life has become so much easier.
4. Make appointments for Self-Care: While I don’t run to the doctor often, I make it a rule to have my annual physical examination done. Also, I try to get a massage whenever I can (not frequently enough, mind you). I don’t have the time to do much more than that, but it is a good start, don’t you think?
Having said all of that, here are some of the other things (mentioned in that post), that make our work – and our lives worthwhile:
We get to help people everyday. I consider myself so lucky that I don’t have to make an extra effort to go find somewhere that I can be of help. I come by the opportunities quite honestly!
We get to hear some very interesting life stories. We feel honoured when patients willingly share their stories and their concerns with us. They let us into their lives, and this keeps us humble.
We do get to share good news, often. We get to pass on bad news often too. But when it is good news, I am happy, and thankful. With bad news, I am still thankful that I am in a position to help, and reassure the patient.
There are many more, but I will ask you, the reader, to share your own thoughts here. What are some of the great things about what you do? And how do you prevent burn out (if you do)?