Sunday, September 21, 2014

lessons from the hospital

This past month, I've been on my ICU rotation.  My favorite physician at our school is the preceptor and every week, I've learned some things that apply both in and out of the hospital.

1. Take the time to dive into backstory. Although there are universal elements to health and biology and medications, each individual's experience is different. If someone has a long term addiction or lives alone without a car, it won't matter if they're prescribed the right medications. 

2. Appreciate protocols but don't let them make you complacent. There are a lot of formulas for success, for minimizing errors. One thing we learned was that while it helps to have a structured plan for anything, following something without thinking about it can make someone too comfortable. 

3.  There's always more than what meets the eye. We see patients, in their rooms, dealing with some unfortunate circumstances. But like everyone else, they have stories that transcend their hospital stay. Sometimes I forget about that idea when I leave the hospital. I had a rough day today and went to the grocery store after work. The cashier's kindness almost took my breath away. She didn't realize the impact she had by taking a few extra seconds to make conversation and wish me the best.

4. It always helps to put yourself in someone else's shoes. I may discuss and write out the next best tests for each patient, but does that mean I really know what they entail? What if someone is scared about sitting in the MRI machine? Or uncomfortable with the idea of a lung biopsy? I may have checked on someone the day after an abdominal surgery, but does that mean I truly understand what type of pain they're in?

While the scientific knowledge from the past several years has stretched my mind, the art of medicine has taught me a lot about my limitations and hopes.

Has your work taught you lessons that helped you in other facets of your life? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

starting on a creative path



“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 


-Ira Glass

Friday, August 1, 2014

on exhaustion and creativity

There's an inverse relationship between exhaustion and creativity.

This past school year has been a mixture of extremes. I've reached pinnacles of both fulfillment and burnout that I didn't think existed. For a few months, I worked six to seven days a week and then came home every night to study. During three different commutes home, I was so afraid of falling asleep on the road that I called my parents to keep me company on the phone.

On one of my weekends off, I slept for 24 hours straight. There were weeks when my lunches consisted of a bag of chips and bottle of soda. I felt disgusting--inauthentic---but I kept pushing. A classmate and I shared a delirious laugh when we both realized that we wanted to cry because we were so tired. Sometimes I would think about the difficult patient cases, the ones who were dealt with an unfortunate hand in life, and be unable to focus on anything else. 

During any free time, I pushed myself to write. That's what they say to do, isn't it? Not wait for the mood or the opportune moments but create those things for ourselves. 

Well, I've found that in order to flourish creatively, we need to rest first. That may not always come in the form of sleeping but logging at least 7 hours always helps. So does taking time to socialize and experiencing a world  and interactions outside of work. Even with all of the exciting things coming up, the past year caused my creativity to atrophy and it often took time just to get back on track. I have to learn to be okay with that, with the impulsive nature of medical student life. 

There were great things in the midst: kind patients, excellent physician teachers, friends' weddings and bachelorettes, planning for our own wedding, getting a chance, through The Clinton Foundation, to start an idea I've had for a long time. But even for those occasions, I was exhausted. And I realized, at some point, that I never want to be too drained to relish in the present.

When your days have a film over them, a weight that rests on the shoulders and back, you are taking a route towards a small, corrosive life. 

I'm still figuring it out and will probably have setbacks with the way this year looks. But there are some things I can do:

-Prioritize sleep
-Cultivate the art of relaxation
-Add novelty into the daily banality
-Allow people to help
-Learn to set limits and say no

How do you handle burnout?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

what if



"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen."

-Anne Lamott, via Brain Pickings

Saturday, July 12, 2014

If I Knew Then



*This post is in addition to a series about what I would tell  my younger self*

1. Keep reading and writing; make sure you're always stepping outside of the genres you enjoy. When you start becoming inspired by everything in the world, life won't be the same again. 

2. Take out time to reflect on your life and ask important questions. Are things facilitating your growth? Are you fulfilling others while at the same time taking care of yourself? Do you feel stimulated and capable? 

3. Invest in Chanel lipstick. You'll never regret it. 

4. Don't worry about anyone who tries to compete with you. Try to be better than you were one year ago and wish everyone the same for themselves. 

5.  Listen to the stories of your mother and grandmother. The women in your life can teach you a lot when you take the time to absorb their stories.

6. You'll have to work harder than you planned for on any creative pursuit and that's the way it should be. Don't abandon things because they're taking time. 

7. After you leave the man who wasn't kind to you, you'll understand that he had demons you could never tame. 

8. Tell the people you love what makes them wonderful. Everyone needs reminders. 

9. If you're pressed for writing time, think about your characters during your commute. Where would they be going? What would they be thinking? This way, you'll be writing even when you can't. 

10. In a conversation, always ask more about the other person and speak less about yourself. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Link love and quotes

Quotes: 


“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” 
Anais Nin

"If you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking."
 Malcolm Gladwell

Greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over ½ a library to make 1 book. 
Samuel Johnson

"There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write." Harper Lee

"You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."
Winston Churchill

“See good in everything and in everyone. But love only a few fiercely and determinately. Make them heroes. Find patterns among them. Stage hypothetical conversations, debates, between them. Have inspiration outside what you do. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. And if you want to be pushed, have heroes in anything, everywhere.”



Links on mental health and women's empowerment: 


*Physicians explain the complex landscape of maternal mental health 

*In India, women making money are at a greater risk for domestic abuse

*Through portraits of Disney princesses, an artist shows how anyone can be a victim of violence

*Actress Zooey Deschanel reminds us that not all women want to give birth 

*A Saudi Arabian princess bravely fights for women's empowerment


*Men are important in promoting equality 

*And one last link, unrelated to the rest: dancing can improve a doctor's skills!