Good doctor, bad patient
I recently started more structured training with a coach. With my strange and demanding work schedule we decided that the best way to approach my training would be that I send him a bimonthly work schedule with my hours available to train each month. Of course, I’m secretly part of the Avengers. Surprise! To those of you who didn’t know this. So I obviously sent him hours that neglected the fact that I still need to eat, sleep, buy groceries, and spend time with significant other people….and of course get from A to B in a city that is one of the most congested in the world. By the end of month one I was depleted and defeated.
Us A-type people often tend to see it as a weakness to give ourselves space to breathe and to take a break when it’s needed. I do it in everything. It’s everything or nothing. No middle ground. But why? Well of course to be Wonder Woman, Superwoman, and every other superhero that ever existed. Jokes aside, I am yet to answer the question but I am thinking about it and in the mean time I’ve written a letter to my fellow superhero doctors.
Raise your hand if you’ve done a shift or gone to work spluttering your lungs out or squirting your guts out before? Raise your hand if your world has been crumbling around you but you’ve still gone to work because you’re convinced that your patients will die without your 24 hour care or your colleagues just can’t cope without you. Now raise your hand if you would advise a patient to do the same?
I suspect there are a lot fewer hands being raised now. And a few more sheepish grins and all to knowing nods. The question is why?
Why do you do it to yourself? Why do you make it ok to be so unkind to yourself? Why are you so good at caring about and for others but so bad at caring for yourself? If you treated any of your patients the way you have treated yourself, you would be ashamed of yourself and there would be few patients returning to see this bad doctor. So again I ask, why is it ok to do it to yourself.
At university we had a course Becoming a Health Professional. It was one of those fluffy around the edges courses that doctors have a tendency to turn their noses up at, roll their eyes and turn their backs on. It seemed as if what they taught was obvious. Good bedside manner. A patient centered approach. The importance of looking after yourself before looking after others. Obvious, right? I thought to. And every one of my classmates thought so to. But trust me, once you enter the medical world, you enter a bubble where these seemingly obvious concepts can become quite fuzzy and blurred and after a while disappear completely.
We can blame it on the system. We can blame it on societal expectations of the super human, god like, Avenger doctor. We can try justify it by using our patients’ or our colleagues’ well being as an excuse. The harsh reality is that it’s your responsibility to look after yourself. If you don’t do it, no one will. You’re the only one who can see inside yourself. You’re the only one who knows when you need a break and you’re the one who has the power to give it to yourself.
So doctors, stop trying to be so strong. Listen to what you say to your patients.
‘Be kind to yourself’
‘Give yourself a break’
‘The best medicine will be rest’
‘Listen to your body’
Now start saying it to yourself. In the words of a wise Canadian lady, ‘Have a be good to Unice day.’ It’s needed more often than you think.