Dedication, commitment, investment…hard work and vision. These are the givens. The personality characteristics that help those seeking a career in medicine succeed, however, can also be the very same characteristics that can eventually undermine the practitioner’s workplace effectiveness and personal well-being.
Most will enter training with an altruistic desire and vision to be of service, to make a meaningful contribution to others and to attain a sense of personal achievement and career satisfaction. Our culture reinforces that vision. Physicians are held in high regard, valued for their achievement and their contributions to the well-being of others.
As in many such service careers, the vision of the young practitioner can drive and sustain the momentum of achievement. Unfortunately, the rigors and realities of training and clinical practice can steadily obscure that original vision. Physicians can find themselves so entrenched ‘in the trenches’ that survival, not vision, becomes the driving force in daily practice. Many feel ‘locked in’ to move forward despite the personal toll and emotional costs. As the dream subsides into an often harsh awakening, emotions can run high. The original vision of service can recede behind fatigue, a workplace with limited resources, the constraints of externally imposed regulation and the complications of finding ethical balance in a reality of limited control and legal liability.
It is not easy to accommodate the erosion of one’s vision. And, it is not easy in the demands of daily practice to maintain a visionary perspective on just what this chosen profession is really all about. The bigger picture, the personal stake and mission in this work, can be hard to keep in focus. At times, the physician can grieve the loss of that perspective feeling more that being on call, charting, doing rounds and paying malpractice premiums win out in the daily grind.
Collegial relationships are valuable in renewing perspective, re-envisioning the bigger picture and rejuvenating the physician who has been in the trenches for long stretches of time. The realities of daily practice, however, more often require the physician to practice in relative isolation even in a workplace shared with other physicians. Colleagues who are equally busy with the demands of their own daily practice are not always available to provide quality support in decision-making about patient care, in peer supervision or personal support. Many physicians will find themselves, in such work conditions, having lost the bigger picture of why they are working so hard. Such a loss of perspective can cause resentment and emotional depletion. Emotionally-driven decisions and behaviors that even further complicate the stress of daily practice become more likely. Unable to gain perspective in the rush and demands of daily work, the overworked and under-supported physician might find that workplace behaviors have begun to deteriorate into emotionality rather than professionalism.
Anger Management Institute of Texas’ Executive Coaching Program is utilized by management of accredited hospital/organizations for physicians displaying disruptive behaviors in the workplace.
Anger Management Institute of Texas is a certified Anderson & Anderson ® provider.
Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Director, Anger Management Institute of Texas
Diplomate, President of Texas Chapter
American Association of Anger Management Providers