Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Smell 'em Roses

I decided to slow down.

As a resident, you're judged by how good the higher ups think you are. Ard part of being "good" is not only medically knowledgeable, but efficient. If you know the medicine part, the faster you are, the better. Because, by golly, if colleague A can see 5 patients in two hours, and colleague B can see 6, but you've seen 8, then you must be very efficient. And smart.

So there's a temptation to push yourself to go, go, go. See the patient fast. Do the exam fast. Don't stop to write the note for the encounter until the clinic is completely over. Grab the next chart and GO!

Unfortunately, as much as you try not to let this speediness spill over into the actual encounter with the patient, it does. You're in a mindset that is ready for action, for the next thing, and when you have an elderly gentleman rambling off about how his neighbor comes over on Sundays instead of answering the questions, you can get frustrated. Then you get frustrated at yourself that you're getting frustrated with the poor man. Some may even get used to this rushed feeling, and think that all working hours are supposed to be carried out at this pace. And anything that slows you down from this pace becomes a source of frustration. At the end of the day, you're left exhausted, having pushed the physical limits, gotten frustrated over silly things, and forgotten to enjoy what you do. All of which can lead to burn out.

Then one day you realize that it doesn't have to be this way. Who says you have to go so fast? Why do you care whether someone else thinks you're better because you're faster? Your job is to take care of the patient, not, as is oft mistaken, to please your boss. And the patients can be such a source of enjoyment in medicine. You realize this fundamental truth and begin to slow things down to a normal pace again, allowing for time to enjoy each patient, to really hear what the patient says and doesn't say. You may sit with Mr. Z for the extra five minutes because it means a lot to him to tell you about the ping-pong championship he won in his youth. And you may spend a few more minutes with Mrs. Y because she's had a bad day and needs to vent. You take the time to cherish the special circumstances that allow for the meeting of two complete strangers. And you regain the pleasure of taking care of others.

It's an amazing thing. Like making the time to stop and smell the roses. Try it sometime - you might like it...

3 Comments:

Anonymous Happystance said...

Very nice, thoughtful piece.

Best - Tony

12:21 PM  
Anonymous kalyan said...

This is a thought provoking piece.Why only for doctors but for all professionals,speed becomes a part of the mind set.We realise only after it is too late that efficiency does not substitute a maningful life where every moment is to be savoured.

2:46 AM  
Blogger always learning said...

Welcome Tony! Thanks for reading, and am glad you liked the topic.

Welcome Kalyan! Agree that all professionals are at risk of going so fast and losing perspective on what's important... Thanks for reading.

2:50 PM  

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