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Editor's Corner: Stumbling into Wellness?
Thomas J. Miner, MD
Like so many of my friends and colleagues, I have become more interested in and receptive to improving surgeon wellness. Although I still tend to find many of the formal presentations a bit tired, as they often seem to restate sensationalized problems rather than offer meaningful solutions, I particularly appreciate some of the pearls that have been offered along the way. It has forced me to look at the man in the mirror. Wellness lessons have come from various and disparate places, some offered deliberately and some picked up by dumb luck. After more than twenty years of practice, it is with equal shares of pride and embarrassment that I must admit I have only recently stumbled on to several important personal and professional wellness tips. They include, but are certainly not limited to: not scheduling a full clinic schedule on days following call; effectively using macros and dot phrases in the electronic medical record; finishing the manuscript before presenting the abstract at the national meeting (delay compounds delay); stretching at the scrub sink to effectively decrease lower back pain; enjoying time off with friends and family (the rejuvenation associated with re-conquering a high peak in the Adirondacks cannot be understated); and, Iím working on becoming a better DIY-er (my projects take twice as long to finish than projected and usually cost me money by doing it myself, but Iíve gotten to work with some really fun power tools so I canít complain too much).
Do these things make me a better surgeon? They probably donít make my knots any better or my resections any more effective. I don't think my decisions are significantly different. But I have noticed I have more time for patients, residents, and family. I might feel (dare I say) a little less stressed. Patients and staff seem to be smiling a little bit more. OR days seem to run smoother. Maybe thereís something to this.
Upon reflection I realize that most of these wellness lessons Iíve picked up come from friends and colleagues. They probably have been offered all along. Maybe the best part about the wellness dialogue is that it got me to listen and be more receptive to identifying those things I need. Thatís a good thing. As the dialogue becomes even more active and engaged, I know I will learn and grow more. I believe others will as well. Perhaps change can and will come slowly from within. We need to keep taking about wellness. There is no secret formula, simple design, or checkbox we can mark off to succeed in this endeavor. We struggle as a profession to find an appropriate structure for wellness probably because no ideal program exists. Rather than stumble towards wellness, we should promote open and deliberate conversations that might help us improve our departments, our society, our profession, and ourselves. When we meet in Maine this fall, letís listen and learn from each other.
Thomas J. Miner MD