What Kind Of A Doctor Are You When No One Is Looking?

Whether you feel good about yourself as a doctor will not be related to the amount of money you make or to whether you are good at heart valve operation, colonoscopies or even kidney biopsies.

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Being the best at these things matter and that’s OK. We need great and gifted interventionalists and thinkers and surgeons, that’s all good.
And I know those guys and I really admire them. But trust me: they aren’t the happiest ones.

Whether you feel good about yourself, go home with a smile on your face and protect yourself from bitterness and burnout greatly depends on something else.

It greatly depends on what you do when no one is looking. It greatly depends on the stuff that you do that your boss won’t see. On stuff that’ll cost you time and bring no direct return on investment.

These things are what Seth Godin calls ART: “Art is anything we do, where we bring emotional labour to the table to make a connection.“

And as a doctor you have endless opportunities to deliver art.

It’s the little things that’ll change how the patient thinks about us and more important: how we feel about ourselves.

What do I mean? Here are some examples:

  • After a long day in the OR you round on your patients and finally get to the last one. You just wanna go home. He asks you for a sip of water. There is no water in his room. The kitchen is far away. You go to the kitchen to get him water.
  • Or try this: a patient’s relative calls and the patient’s little granddaughter is in the background. You go down the hall to the patient, you put the granddaughter on the speaker phone and let her hear her granddaughters voice. You just made her week.
  • You check whether your colleague has sent away all the diagnostic tests for a critically ill patient. You notice that he forgot three or four things. You complete them. You don’t brag about it. The only one who profits from this is the patient and your colleague.
  • I once fought with an insurance company about whether they would pay for a patient’s ambulance service to pick him up from his home and drop him off at the dialysis clinic. It cost me half an hour. I finally won, he was brought to the clinic.The family didn’t stop thanking me. He died a couple of weeks later. I think it was this half hour that greatly changed what his family thought about us doctors.

What to all these requests and examples have in common? We could easily say: “This is not my job, I have more important things to do.”

But why don’t you try to practice this: It’s what you do when no one’s looking.
By the way, I stole this title from the book: “Who you are when no one’s looking. Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise.” from Bill Hybels. Great book.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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