March 30 is National Doctor’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate the contribution of physicians who serve our country by caring for its' citizens. First celebrated on March 30, 1933, it was established as an official holiday in 1990.
It’s also a day when you as a physician can reserve time to remember why you got into medicine in the first place. Especially as you feel the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and face any fear or stress that comes with such a crisis, it is especially important to reconnect to the feelings you had fresh out of medical school—filled with a sense of purpose and your entire career ahead.
Here are some suggestions that can help.
Reclaim your 'why'
Think back to the reason you became a doctor.
Perhaps it was a family member's illness or even your own battle to overcome disease that propelled you.
Maybe it was the influence of a revered family physician or the lack of physicians and access to healthcare in the community where you grew up.
Possibly you were already working in medicine in a different capacity and were inspired by the doctors with whom you served.
After years in practice, encountering difficult decisions regarding patient care, mountains of administrative paperwork, bureaucratic hurdles, or the exhaustion that accompanies long shifts can obscure the clarity you once had and cloud your vision.
Likely, you can relate to the experience of this physician writing for KevinMD:
"I went into medicine because I was a dreamer, an overachiever. I had curiosity and fire, drive and passion, but somewhere along the way, things changed a bit ... with all the politics and challenges I, like everyone in medicine face, I started to lose sight. My vision got a little blurry."
"I took a step back recently and realized the positive person I was when it all started had begun to slip away. I decided to remind myself why I do what I do; otherwise, the negativity would surely take over."
Whatever the reason you chose medicine, for the health of your career and personal physician satisfaction, it's vital that you reclaim your "why" and reinvigorate that passion.
Remember what you love about medicine
Another tactic: Ask, "What do I truly love about medicine?"
Is it the opportunity to save lives, empower patients to take control of their health, play a critical role in a growing field, serve an underserved population, the satisfaction you get from seeing patients experience a positive outcome — or all the above?
The KevinMD physician describes his love for medicine this way:
"I drive home with a smile on my face and focus on the joy I brought to a patient and their family, how smoothly I was able to help coordinate care or how I positively impacted a resident’s growth as a young physician myself."
Remembering what you love about medicine is critical to reigniting passion in your practice experience.
Re-center your values
This tip, from an SCP Health blog post about New Year's resolutions, says getting the spark back requires "re-centering" your values by asking the question, "What's more important: money or meaning?"
The post cited a survey of medical school graduates regarding what they felt was important in choosing a career path. The respondents continually emphasized meaning over money or status. (Working for social change and expression of personal values ranked as the top two responses.)
According to Dr. Stephen Nichols, SCP Health's Chief Clinical Technology Officer, re-centering also involves "looking for joys in the daily tasks, finding the positive moments, and making a habit of behaviors that bring fulfillment." He says that finding a supportive mentor or mental health professional in which to confide can help as well.
To ensure longevity and productivity in your career and avoid physician burnout, find your “why,” remember what you love about medicine, and stay true to your calling.
Here are two other tips drawn from the New Year's resolutions post that are worth considering:
Get to know your patients on a personal level.
Your time with patients is limited, but that doesn't mean you can't get to know them on a personal level to the degree possible to provide the best care.
That includes making sure they are “connected to the right people, have an informed and prepared caretaker, are equipped with the right resources, and set up for success,” the post said.
Get involved in the community.
As healthcare shifts more into patients' homes and communities, you have a responsibility to care for patients outside the four walls of the hospital and will reap benefits by doing so — meeting people where they are, participating in projects both medical and non-medical, and knowing you are making a difference in the lives of your patients and community members alike.
These tips should give you a head start on filling your Doctors' Day prescription, but those of you in medical leadership and hospital management have an additional responsibility — helping your team members stay connected to their purpose. Here's how:
Preach what you practice
As you begin to implement the recommendations outlined above in your own life and practice, encourage those on your team to do the same. Model the behaviors you want your team to emulate.
Discuss ‘finding your why’ together
Include discussions about this topic in your meetings—perhaps as an icebreaker—and encourage individuals to share their feelings openly and honestly. (Walk the walk and talk the talk, in other words.)
Promote physician satisfaction
Improving patient satisfaction begins by promoting physician satisfaction and ensuring physician support systems are in place.
Set the stage for physician satisfaction by:
- Keeping open lines of communication, addressing provider concerns with respect and responsiveness;
- Maintaining a supportive, accessible medical leadership team;
- Offering incentives to align provider goals with those of your organization;
- Boosting career satisfaction and retention with ongoing medical leadership training, comprehensive CME programs, flexible scheduling, and coaching at every career stage.
As a physician, you have dedicated your life to helping others. You endured years of education followed by more years of residency to gain board certification and now work long hours treating patients and fulfilling administrative burdens.
With all the demands everyday practice places on you, don't lose sight of why you embarked on a medical career in the first place. Give yourself some space on March 30 to reclaim, remember, and re-center. (Mark it on your calendar so you won’t forget.)
Something else to remember — SCP Health is here to help. True to our mission, we are committed to providing personal attention to every provider with physician support systems, strategies, and tools like our Provider Portal, a robust resource for tracking performance, accessing treatment protocols, continuing education, and more.