What brings you JOY?
There has been a lot of talk about 'Doctor Burnout' lately. I see it everywhere: on physician blogs, physician CME pages, social media, and traditional media. But what exactly does it mean?
Some categorize 'burnout' as being tired of being a doctor. But I wonder just how much it really is stress from practice of medicine or just the bureaucratic baggage that comes along with it.
In fact, I also heard a recent interview on NPR with one of the higher ups at Permanante talking about how only half of US physicians have true universal electronic medical records. In the same minute, he was talking about how physicians spend a large chunk of time on billing and not on face-to-face time with their physicians. I'm not sure who exactly this person is, but he certainly has not spent the excess hours charting on electronic medical records. How can you say we need to have MORE physicians on EMR in the same sentence as saying we need less time on billing and more on face-to-face time? The only way that would happen is if EMR was less bulky, less time-consuming, and more user friendly. And even then I feel as though the emphasis on billing and insurance requirements bog us down.
Though, giving him the benefit of the doubt, it's possible his emphasis was on universal electronic medical records--in other words records that are accessible to other doctors, not just the ones within a certain medical group practice or HMO.
Previous to joining my current practice, I worked part time and had pretty flexible hours. I had my templates down pat and I used to finish my electronic charts at the end of clinic so my patients wouldn't have to wait so long. However, I know several other physicians who are working full time and charting a LOT in what should be their 'down' time at home. I would chart later on sometimes at home too but since my clinic hours were less, it didn't matter as much.
The current practice I'm at is a busy one, but we are still on paper charts. There are pluses and minuses as I maximize my time with my patients. And, I'm happy.
See--there's the key. I'm happy. I like my job and I love being a pediatrician. However, I will admit that I may not be experiencing burnout because I work part time.
But whether a physician works full time or part time, what is needed is more 'ME' time. This 'ME' time is to allow a physician to be something other than a physician. To find other ventures that could bring joy.
For me joy comes in the form of being a mom. This past weekend, even though I was on 'home' call, I had a lot of time to bond with my family and my extended family. I purposely didn't schedule much since I was on call, but I still got to hang out with my kids, my husband, my sister and parents.
Personally, for me, joy comes from doing anything creative. So while writing (and reading!) is my first love, I also like to sew, crochet (occasionally), and do arts and craft projects with my girls. And clearly I'm enjoying this blogging adventure. As long as I have time in my life for some sort of creative outlet, I'm happy.
Though I still would love to finish my YA novel that only has about 5000-10000 words left for its first draft. My May goal was to finish it by the time the girls get out of school. I keep reminding myself that it's a ZERO draft. Just get it done and edit later.
Coincidentally, I just discovered that there is a special program at Stanford Medical school called "Medicine and the Muse", a program that incorporates the arts and humanities into medical education. For me, this would have been a winning combo. And I guess I'm not alone, as the program is a decade-strong. I only wish it wasn't so far away so that I could get involved.
Finally, I just want to share that one of my sisters and I were talking over the weekend about kindness and how to increase it in our lives. Some ways are obvious, and others more subtle. She talked about how showing patience is a form of kindness, and I agree.
Can I just suggest that despite these changing medical times, we show our doctors a bit of kindness?
Sometimes all it takes is patience for them as they may be having a busy day (and most of my families are super patient and super patients). Sometimes all it takes is a simple smile or thank you. Or an enthusiastic high five or giggle or even a snort from a little one is enough to make my day. Because even though I love being a pediatrician, sometimes I get bogged down by a busy day. It's a wonder how much joy a smile can bring to another person.