Lifehacks for the Doctor

With interview of a renowned Cardiologist.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Lifehack:
a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

Are you talented, hardworking, hurried, bitter, artificial, irritable, insecure, obsessive, egoistic, money-minded, dissatisfied and longing for a better life? Yes? Then you must be a successful Doctor!

While medical practice is of paramount and sacred importance, the duties as a spouse and parent are absolute too, there is no replacement for you there (Well, in most cases!). If your “Kick” of being completely swept away by the needs of your practice and competition drowns your own personality and the requirements of your family, you may be a overindulging doctor who is a terrible parent or spouse. Only your family will carry you in their arms few years from now, no one else. Rethink how you treat them today.
Are you really earning “For Them” or for your own super-ego, for overcoming the ever widening valley which converts every luxury into a necessity you must have? The justified feeling that “If I have learnt so much and am so talented, work so hard, I must earn real good” is difficult to overcome. Has money / affluence become your self-assessment criteria? If so, you may be no different than an attention seeking, beautiful, very very attractive but dumb individual. You trade health, family and life for money.

Calm agility of mind and body are hallmarks of a doctor, and too many tasks, irritability, bitterness, insecurity and lack of satisfaction are making this impossible.

Let us identify how we can reduce stress and improve the quality of life. The only life we have.
1. Separate work and family cellphones. Switch off the work phone outside work hours, except on emergency day. Provide all your patients with casualty / emergency contacts, and only your assistant should be able to reach you on your personal number.
2. Hire and train assistants when feasible, they may assist you with secondary/ nonclinical tasks, paperwork etc.
3. Take a big picture look at your day / time correlation, you will be surprised:
Work (8-10 hours),
Commuting (1 hour),
Sleep (7 hours),
Kids (1 hour) till they are 18.
Spouse (dedicated 1 hour: you married for togetherness all life, right?),
Communication / emails / Internet (1 hour), and
‘Self’ time (1 hour)
Total = 20-22 hours.

You will still have 2-4 hours left for cooking / housekeeping / etc. (to be done by both if both are working). If we expect the society to be modern, we must also give up the traditional “wife at home however educated or smart” and “husband rules” attitude. Family is equal responsibilities to be shared with mutual agreement.

If only one partner is working, it is easier to arrange schedules. If both are working, one may prefer non-clinical / paraclinical duties till kids can take care of themselves. Singles are anyways happier till a certain age!

It is extremely essential to disconnect from the work to be completely with your kids / spouse. Strictly avoid talking about workplace at home, especially do not take your stress to bed.
Switching off cellphone at night is a big step in the evolution of a Doctor’s peace of mind.

You can practice far better with a calm and healthy mind. Hence the necessity of good sleep and self time.

4: Find an activity that makes you feel calm and happy. Don’t need to explain this to anyone, don’t need to feel guilty, this is therapeutic. This must be done alone for an hour everyday , with all communications switched off. Some suggestions:
Music: Listening, Composing, Singing, Learning
Writing, Reading, Painting
Gardening, Watering plants (magically calming effect).
Swimming, Cycling, Dancing, Gymming, Yoga
Long walks / drives if good, uncrowded roads nearby.

One of my senior colleagues Dr. Jagdish Hiremath (Director of the Ruby Hall CathLab) is one of the busiest and renowned Cardiologists in the town, and never skips a smile when a colleague crosses him. Always appears at peace with himself and others. I asked him how he manages such a stressful life of a successful interventional cardiologist. As we talked, I realised his answers are worth what every doctor must think about:

Dr. JSH: “I prefer to be in the present 100%, whether with patient or otherwise. I concentrate upon the task in front of me and blank out all else, so I can do justice to that task. When I am with a patient or in cathlab, my cellphones are diverted to my assistants or receptionist, and I am not disturbed. This helps me, and the patient also feels happy about it. My assistants filter out unnecessary calls and pass on the genuine ones to me as a message, I call and talk to them on my way home”.

Me: “Newcomers, especially superspecialists, face the dilemma: that cut-practice or referral practice is the only way they can start, as no one offers any salary till you have a good patient-base. It is almost impossible for the beginners to start in a decent place without submitting to the existing pay structures”.

Dr. JSH: “Yes that is a shortcoming in our system. But then, the concepts of ethics, morals are quite twisted in medicine today. We must never compromise in doing the best for the patient. But then, others should not decide or dictate how the medical charging systems work: neither insurance people, nor media, community or anyone else. Because they never understand / acknowledge the importance of talent and skill”.

Yes, I thought: who else will allow other professions/ government, society or insurance companies to decide the value of their services? Will they allow others to dictate how they use / share their charges? It is only the doctors who have allowed this, and it is high time everyone else shuts up about this and doctors redefine the charging structures.

Me: “Sir, medical education has become “Earning PG” oriented. MBBS doctors do not get good teachers, and are not clinically well groomed. They are smarter and have better net-knowledge, but not good clinicians. They have become “MCQ Doctors”.

Dr. JSH: “I have always said that MBBS should be ‘the making of a doctor’, and not only stepping stone for PG. We need better institutes, better teaching. A doctor must grow as a human being lifelong, and it must start at this level. Even the PGs are exploited too much. Their teachers should understand that they are no more traditional ‘students’ in college, they are grown up married doctors with families, and must be treated like employees rather than servants”.

Feeling a sense of having learnt something invaluable, I thanked him and left.

There’s this “Becoming a Man (or Woman)” of every Doctor: when they start treating independently and confidently. Then comes the phase of an “All Out” effort to increase practice: extreme self neglect and hardwork, running from one hospital to another. Then one day they wake up to the reality.

All the stories of Morals and Ethics taught and expected of a Doctor are like the things that parents tell their kids not to do, while doing these themselves.

The corporates make doctors fight among themselves and make enemies with their colleagues. Let us reach out to our educated colleagues and maintain a good healthy communication alongwith competition which is for self improvement rather than profiting business houses.

The Indian Doctor’s Enlightenment (approximate latency 5-7 years in practice) comes packed in bitterness and depression towards the very society he / she serves. They realise that the society has lost trust and respect towards us, even the recognition of the extreme education and hardwork doctors have to perpetually live in. An educated patient expects global standard healthcare at Indian rates. The uneducated look upon the doctor as a bandit.

So if you have become the typical successful doctor “Hurried, bitter, artificial, irritable, insecure, obsessive, egoistic, money-minded, dissatisfied and longing for a better life”, it is time for a reboot. No medical bodies stand by or defend doctors. So we must learn and try to sort out this mess ourselves.

For life is change, and wisdom lies in the wish for a better life.
It is high time Doctors learn to take care of themselves.
Wishing all Doctors best of health and a beautiful, rewarding life of success and satisfaction.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
(This is Part II of “Delusions, Doc?)

Please share to reach our stressed colleagues.

Special Thanks
Dr. Jagdish Hiremath,
Director Cathlab Ruby Hall Clinic

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