I am very fortunate to have a pretty darn epic drive home.
Often I will take the back roads from Mullum, through the rolling, green farmlands of Myocum, popping out at the new highway interchange and heading back onto the now nearly deserted old highway — the Hinterland Way.
It’s a very fun drive.
Curves, dips, hills.
Sure there are a bunch of potholes but, hey, if its one thing Byron Bay is known for outside of its beaches, its the Shire’s potholes.
It takes me about 25 minutes from leaving work to pull into the street I live in, drive down my driveway and come home.
Now, while this time is a fun drive; an opportunity to listen to a podcast or two or just chill, there is one important task to do.
And that is to ask myself the question — Are there any patients I am still thinking about?
Is there something tugging at my awareness that today, in some shape or form, something unusual happened in a consult.
Did I promise something I didn’t do?
Did I give in to a request that I should have blocked?
Did I not exam a patient that I should have?
Did I say something out of place?
Any of these things, or others, could be triggering my awareness that something happened today at work that requires looking at.
And, that if I choose to ignore these, eventually, I am going to end up with problems.
It’s like having the orange warning light come on in my car, or hearing a strange noise from the engine…
And just ignoring it…
Hoping it will go away.
The cost of ignoring patients that I am taking home eventually begins to build up.
Slowly but surely, each patient I take home and refuse to review why I am still thinking about them after work, adds another brick to an unseen wall.
A wall I build to protect myself from these consults.
But the wall does something else too.
It blocks me from having empathy for and connection with my patients.
And this disconnection from patients eventually leads to me hating my work.
Lying awake at night wondering why I feel so numb and how do I motivate myself to just keep going.
The lesson here is to be very careful about ignoring the blinking orange warning light of still thinking about patients when heading home.
Take it as a clear sign that something happened today that needs closer examination.
And perhaps, you might even find a gift for yourself in digging into the experience.
Does this challenge that we face as GPs resonate with you?
If so, then head over to https://www.graduatemedicine.com for further resources, now.