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Living La Vida Locum: This Is Why I Love Being A Traveling Physician

Advice For New Doctors

It’s the cusp of a new medical year and there’s no shortage of advice on how to succeed as a house officer.  The White Coat Underground and Wes Fisher will put you in the right direction.  And I love Mary Brandt’s Advice for New Interns.

But just a couple of more points to keep in mind:

Keep your options open.  Medicine is changing quickly.  You’ll start your career training as a 20th century doctor and retire in a place none of us can imagine.  Your ultimate success will be determined by your ability to adapt to a shifting foundation.  Keep an open mind.

Quiet your fingers.  You are the first generation to have publication tools that make it dangerously easy to breach your patient’s trust.  Keep their business off the public forums.  Better yet, find a way to apply all this wonderful technology to really move the chains forward. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

When A Doctor Is “Spent”

“I need you to do me a favor,” my nurse asked me at the end of our day on Friday.

“Sure,” I answered. “What do you want?”

“Please have a better week next week,” she said with a pained expression. “I don’t think I can handle another one like this week.”

It was a bad week. There was cancer, there was anxiety, there were family fights, there were very sick children. It’s not that it’s unusual to see tough things (I am a doctor), but the grouping of them had all of us trudging home drained of energy. Spent.

I think this is one of the toughest thing about being a doctor (and nurse, by my nurse’s question): The spending of emotional reserves. I’m not physically active at work, yet I come home tired. I don’t have to be busy to feel drained. It’s not the patients’ fault that I feel tired. They are coming to me to get the service I offer to them, and I think I do that job well. The real problem is in me. The real problem is that I care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

Dr. Patient: Doctors And Self-Care

I did a little “self care” earlier this week. I did it by not caring for myself. I went to the doctor.

I was sitting in the waiting area for my appointment and saw the mother of one of my patients. “Why are you here?” she asked. “I have a doctor’s appointment,” I replied. She got a curious look on her face, asking: “Don’t you doctors just take care of yourselves? I thought that was what doctors did.”

We do take care of ourselves. In fact, we do it far more often than we should. Being your own doctor allows for a lot of denial. When you spend your day advocating healthy lifestyles after you had trouble finding pants that would fit in the morning, denial is necessary. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

I realize that this is hypocrisy — that is why I was at the doctor on Monday. My patients have noticed my expanding waistline, commenting on it more than I would wish. Certainly my pants get in the way of denial as well, not forgiving the fact that I have been under a whole lot of stress. Pants don’t accept excuses.

So I found myself in the unfamiliar experience of being the patient. Instead of closing my mind and emotions to my own body, I had to frankly assess what I was doing to it. Standing on the scale was as frank of an assessment as I would ever want. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

When I Really Felt Like A Doctor

PalMD over at The White Coat Underground recently asked: “When did you really feel like a doctor?” Interesting question that I could answer in a number of ways.

While I didn’t know it at the time, I felt like a doctor around 4am during my first night on call. I was an intern on the hematology ward at Texas Children’s Hospital. I was fresh out of medical school, I had chosen a residency known for its mind-boggling volume, and the kids were really sick. I had hit a point where I simply couldn’t keep up with what was in front of me. I stole away into the 6th-floor stairwell in the Children’s Abercrombie building, put my face into my hands, and began to cry.

My first call night was a metaphor for my career. I had no idea at the time that the idea of simply keeping up would be a theme that would follow me through my training and into my day-to-day work.

While I can’t remember the last time I cried at the hospital, I continue to struggle with input. I work to keep up with inbound information and professional social dialog. How I handle information or how I appear to handle it defines me as a physician. Harnessing this attention crash through technology will represent a major defining moment for the next generation of physicians.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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