Over the past weeks I’ve noticed that my elbow hurts. At first it was intermittent. Then it seemed to hurt more often. I even had to find a different position to sleep so as to not lie on it.
Why am I sharing this with you? No, I’m not looking for a diagnosis or advice. I share this to demonstrate how the strategies we use in every day life are applicable to our journey in medicine. Doctors often think of their career as separate from their life, when in fact the lessons we learn from life are directly applicable to the way we navigate medicine.
Here’s what I mean. I tried to ignore the pain. It didn’t go away. It became persistent. If I moved my arm in a certain way, the pain reminded me that it was still there. It became evident that I needed to see a doctor. Fear of the worse kept me paralyzed for a few hours. I regrouped so I could access the expertise I needed. Now I am wearing the comfort support brace, resting it, and modifying my activities so over time I achieve my goal of healing and pain reduction with eventual return to regular activities.
June and July are a time of transition for doctors. Along with the excitement and celebration of moving from one level to the next in medicine comes challenges and even pain. The key to navigating transition is to access the strategies and support to minimize pain and learn how to modify your thinking and activities to achieve your desired outcomes. They key is to use these lessons in life and medicine for success.
Here’s an example:
During attending rounds, it is determined that a patient needs a central line. As a medical student you assisted the team in placing one, but your role was minor. Now the attending is expecting you to know what to do. Fear sets in as you anticipate the attending asking you questions about the procedure, the anatomy, the landmarks, and the potential problems to anticipate. You feel yourself shrinking back. You’d rather do your progress notes in the EMR than have to be scrubbed in with the attending with nowhere to hide.
Take a deep breath. Regroup. Ask yourself, where can you access the information, the resources and the support you need to prepare yourself for the procedure. Maybe it is the senior resident who has performed this procedure a dozen times and can talk you through it. Maybe you can find a tutorial in a textbook or online. Modify your actions by reading, reviewing, and even visioning the successful procedure in advance. Then instead of fearing the worse, focus your attention on the achieving your goal and helping the patient.