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Why I Didn’t Watch the Royal Wedding


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Because I fundamentally disagree with a system which supports and reinforces a hierarchy of human existence. I reject the idea that some lives are more valuable, important, or noble because of their last name, where they were born, or the type of clothes they wear.

Because I can’t help but estimate how many of my patients could have been fed, housed, or treated with the cost of the outfit-changes alone.

Because I wonder how and why we, as a society, are uncomfortable with meeting the gaze of our homeless neighbours but will pine for a glimpse of far-away strangers with forced, flashy smiles. Why is humanity made palatable by designer dresses, artificial designations, and shiny cars?

Because I resent the expectation that women should give up their interests and career pursuits to maintain an image deemed appropriate by others.

Because I’m waiting for the day when the love of all people is acknowledged and celebrated with the same zeal and enthusiasm. A day when all people feel safe and welcome to step outside and express their truest identities.

Because I believe that there are other events in our society worthy of our discussion which are discounted, dismissed, or diminished because they make society uncomfortable and do not generate such handsome pay checks.

Because I wish that other successful, ambitious women received the same amount of attention as the blushing bride so that little girls could dream beyond their wedding day where the tenacity of their resolve and creativity supersedes the price tag on their gowns.

 

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blog, health, ideas, medicine

What I Learned From My First Year As A Resident Doctor


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1. You’re only one…Google search away from coming up with a differential so long that even your staff is rolling their eyes.

2. Getting two pillows in your call-room is the universe throwing you a HUGE bone.

3. You’ll constantly be surprised by your ability to run on less and less sleep and more and more coffee.

4. You’ll start to understand why the enthusiasm of medical learners brightens up any ward.

5. Being part of a professional group is nice and so is having benefits – begin chanting – I have rights! I have rights!

6. Nothing cures the post-call blues like the comedic genius of Kevin Hart, John Mulaney, Amy Schumer, and Amy Poehler. Nothing.

7. One of the coolest moments will be being when you get called to a code and are able to manage it (#iknowstuff).

8. Be kinds to nurses.

9. Be kind to the person who hands out call room keys.

11. Drink lots of water and lots of coffee. But more water than coffee.

12. People can’t help you if you don’t let them know you’re struggling.

13. Rounds scheduled on days that end in ‘y’ typically have coffee at them.

14. Sometimes the quality of a rotation depends on the frequency of free coffees.

15. It goes faster than you think.

16. Patients love when you ask about their pets.

17. Ask how often the hospital keyboards get cleaned. I dare you.

18. Be kind to everyone…but especially the Timbit guy at Tim Horton’s.

 

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Diverting Distraction


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Hello everyone and welcome back! This next post is long overdue and for that I apologize. I’m trying to take a step back, re-calibrate my schedule, and refresh my goals. Moving forward, I’ve challenged myself to sit down and write once per week so you can look forward to more consistent content in the near future!

Lately I have been thinking about distraction…mostly because I’ve been feeling so distracted. With changing rotations, endless amounts of charting, research deadlines, financial stress, social engagements, and the Olympics (much love to you Team Canada), I have been finding it increasingly difficult to tune into the task at hand and tune out all the noise in the background. I’ve always prided myself on being a multi-tasker extraordinaire; however, lately juggling 5-10 different tasks hasn’t been working for me or for what I’m trying to get done. So what to do? I’ve been trialling out a few different strategies. Here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned:

  • Recognize when it’s time for a break – This point should be bolded, underlined, circled in red, and covered in glitter. I somehow got the idea that feeling distracted meant I was being lazy and that there’s no way it could possibly represent anything else. I couldn’t be more wrong. I took a day off (gasp) and did absolutely nothing on my to-do list. Instead I listened to some of my favourite albums, read some new (non-medicine) books, napped and went to Crossfit. Initially, I felt SO guilty; however, in the following days/weeks, I had a renewed sense of focus. It was not only easier to concentrate but I had more fun doing the projects I had set out for myself. Huh.
  • One thing at a time – There’s more and more research coming out to suggest that multi-tasking isn’t cognitively efficient. It puts our brain in overdrive. We’re pouring out valuable energy with multiple background thoughts that burns our tank dry sooner rather than later. Undoubtedly, there’s times where balancing tasks may be unavoidable; however, trying to start and finish one task at a time is actually more efficient in the long run.
  • Make a timeline and be reasonable – Rome wasn’t built in a day and my 16 page research abstract certainly won’t be either. Break down tasks into smaller steps and figure out an appropriate plan of action. Then, stick to the plan. If distractions start coming in, refer back to your plan, incorporate changes as necessary and return to the task at hand.
  • Know your strengths and capitalize on them – I’ve always admired people who can plug away on papers and studying well into the wee hours of the morning. I have never been one of them. The times I’ve tried I’ve woken up with impressions of my textbooks on my face – cute. What I do know is that I do some of my best work in the mornings. Just like a hockey player shoots with their preferred hand to increase their chance of scoring a goal, I’ve tried to play to my cognitive strengths and schedule some of my more demanding tasks when I’m at my sharpest.

What helps you stay on task? How do you block out distractions? Comment below!

 

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AWESOME Moments as a Doctor


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Has anyone read ‘The Book of Awesome’ by Neil Pasricha? It is one of my absolute favourites for days that feel less than awesome. The concept of the book is brilliant and yet so simple – recognizing and celebrating life’s sweet little moments. After a tough shift, I challenged myself to come up with 16 ‘Awesome’ moments in Medicine. What a fun exercise this was! Some are a little sassy, some are sweet. But all helped me to come back to a more grounded, grateful head space. Here are my 16 ‘Awesome’ residency moments:

  1. When your last page comes at midnight and no other issues come up before handover.
  2. When whatever gentle soul was making up the call rooms left TWO pillows and TWO blankets instead of one – hello comfort!
  3. When you go to grab a coffee and there’s NO line.
  4. When you get the scrubs that tie up in front rather than the silly, sultry pair which show some scandalous side skin.
  5. When some generous soul buys a box of 80 Timbits for the department and there’s a healthy number of sour cream glazed remaining.
  6. When you walk outside into the crisp autumn air and feeling the sun on your skin after finishing a 26 hour call shift.
  7. When you thought you left your stethoscope on the 8th floor and you look into your call bag and it’s. right. there.
  8. When one of your staff kindly offers to buy dinner for the team.
  9. When you need to look up some blood work and there are several computers ready and waiting.
  10. When said computers load in a reasonable amount of time without any crashes, glitches, implosions, explosions…
  11. When your last patient ‘No Shows’ after a double-booked, ten hour clinic day and you have a quick moment to catch your breath (and document).
  12. When(ever) the therapy dogs come around to visit (!!!)
  13. When some grant money comes in that you weren’t expecting.
  14. When the surgeon has a bumping playlist going in the OR (and also when you no longer have to be in the OR #psychiatry).
  15. When you run into some of your friends in other services and are able to exchange quick hugs, smiles, eye rolls while desperately trying to keep up with your staff.
  16. When your call room has an en suite washroom and you get a taste of true luxury.

…Awesome, right?

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Procrastination Nation: How to Boost Your Productivity Without Burning Out


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Happy December everyone!

It has been a little (LONG) while since I’ve been back. I apologize for the radio silence – there’s no easy explanation; however, I would be lying if I pretended that I haven’t been dominated by my “to-do” list. You don’t have to be in medicine to have experienced the pure chaos of running from task to task to task. Between work, appointments, research, house work, and studying it can feel like a small miracle to have eaten lunch some days! When life gets busy, it can be hard to maintain a sustainable level of productivity and it becomes all too easy to put off tasks. Although procrastination may feel like a welcome break in the immediate period, usually that feeling doesn’t last long. This past weekend, I had a day where it felt so good to put off all responsibilities – gym? Maybe tomorrow. Emails? Not today’s problem. Grocery shopping? Peanut butter for dinner it is. The next day, I was kicking myself. So I started reflecting on ways I can (and sometimes have) boosted my productivity. Here’s some of my strategies:

Eat and eat well.

I feel like I talk about the importance of proper nutrition every blog and for good reason! You can’t expect to pour yourself into other tasks with any empty cup. In fact, when we’re undernourished, it’s harder to regulate our emotions, concentrate, and practice good decision-making. My go to snack? Right now I’m really loving mixing up some cottage cheese, blueberries, and cashews. Perfect mix to propel me through my to-do list!

Make a list.

It can be really easy to get lost in the chaos of every day life and forget what you actually need to do. Making a list can make your to-do tasks seem much more manageable and concrete. It can also help you subdivide different tasks into smaller steps which might make them appear less daunting. I also find that there’s significant satisfaction which comes with crossing off an item. Check! On to the next one please!

One thing at a time.

Science tells us that multi-tasking may not be as much of a gift as it was originally thought to be. It turns out, we’re more likely to complete tasks efficiently and effectively if we focus on one thing at a time. Furthermore, taking on tasks one by one seems so much more manageable that trying to balance five all at the same time.

Add in some fitness!

Feels like I’m adding another thing to your list right? Wrong! Yes engaging in physical activity is a time commitment, but it doesn’t have to be an hour on the elliptical at the gym. Many of us are aware that engaging in regular physical activity translates into improved mood and energy levels. There’s tons of “sneaky” ways to incorporate physical activity into your day without ever stepping foot into a gym. I like riding my bicycle to work and taking the stairs in the hospital. Youtube is also an awesome resource for a number of different workout videos. Free, accessible, and different lengths – what more could you want?

Practice mindfulness.

To-do lists can seem so tedious. Sometimes I find myself dreaming about the couch waiting for me at the end of it. I found myself thinking one day – how can I reframe my thinking so I’m not just trying to get through X activity and wishing away hours and/or days of my life? Can I take charge and be present in every moment? Living moment by moment makes it easier to find comfort, ease and peace in the present task. It’s not always easy and doesn’t always work. But with practice it becomes less effortful and more consistent.

Try to add some fun wherever you can.

Can you do the activity with a friend? Blast some music in the background? Bring a book while you’re waiting for that doctor who takes forever? Making our tasks a little more enjoyable will make them more tolerable and less likely that they’ll get pushed off until the day after tomorrow (after tomorrow, after tomorrow…).

 

What are your tips for keeping procrastination at bay? I’d love to hear them and share ideas! Comment below.

health, ideas, medicine

Physician Burnout: More Than Just an Old Battery (Part 1)


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Good evening everyone. I hope that you are all well. I’m sorry that it has been a little while since my last post. I have been having quite a time trying to balance my clinical duties with long, long hours at the hospital with my research interests with my interpersonal relationships with physical activity with the needs of my new (recently ill) kitten. Needless to say, there has been a lot on my plate. So much so, that I have been feeling like there’s not too much room left. I thought I would right about a topic which has felt a little closer to home than usual – burnout.

We use the term ‘burnout’ pretty regularly in everyday life when speaking about a variety of household objects – batteries, candles, light bulbs, etc. Typically, the word is used to describe the amount of an energy source or, rather, lack thereof. When used in the context of physician health, burnout also denotes a depletion of energy but this energy takes on a number of different forms including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Different physicians may vary in how much each of the aforementioned domains is impacted; however, the outcome or end picture is fairly consistent. Physicians who are burnout are significantly less engaged and/or effective in their clinical duties. In some of the more extreme cases of burnout, physicians may feel totally disconnected from their personal and professional identities coupled with a sense of purposelessness. Now many people are at risk of experiencing burnout – it is not an affliction unique to physicians; however, I have chosen to speak from the physician perspective because of my personal experiences.

What does burnout look like? There are a few common symptoms which have been described in the literature; however, like many other illness states, burnout’looks different on different people. The rates of burnout vary between different specialties, genders, locations…you name it. The following are some commonalities which have been highlighted, although not all symptoms need to be present for one’s burnout to be clinically significant or, in non-medical jargon, “real”,

  • Exhaustion – Mentally, emotionally, physically, individuals feel that their current pace of life is not sustainable and that a “crash” is inevitable, however that crash may look.
  • Lack of purpose – You begin to question the usefulness of your work – “Why do I do this every day if people don’t listen to me?” Devoid of meaning, your work becomes something to get done, rather than something you enjoy doing. You go through the motions of your day-to-day without ever feeling like you are making a difference.
  • Depersonalization – You become mentally and emotionally disconnected from your work. You find it increasingly difficult to relate to others and the “real world” seems a lot less “real”. Deadlines – do they even matter? A complaint? It will probably just go away or maybe it won’t – it would not matter to you either way.

 

Have you ever experienced burnout? What was your experience like? What symptoms did you notice in yourself? How did you become aware of these symptoms? In future segments, I will be exploring the importance of identifying and addressing burnout as well as strategies individuals and organizations can employ to prevent its occurrence. Any other thoughts or questions? I would love to hear from you!