In my writing on the exploding career opportunities within the world of health IT, I may focus on the ways in which doctors can use social media to communicate with patients or people can use a smartphone app to keep track of their prescription intake or lives can be saved as primary care physicians enjoy critical record sharing with specialists. These topics are certainly important. But, rightfully so, many are worried about the chance that greater technology in medicine could equate to diminishing humanity in those vital doctor-patient relationships.
With that hesitation in mind, I thought I would dedicate an article to thinking about some of those fictional doctors from the small screen. What can they teach us about how to communicate with patients? Here are a few that came to mind:
Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show
Dr. Frasier Crane from Cheers and Frasier
Doogie Howser, MD from . . . well, the show of the same name
The entire cast of ER . . . and Grey’s Anatomy . . . and St. Elsewhere . . . and House . . . and Scrubs . . . and M*A*S*H
Do you want the funny doctor who can tell stories about his five kids and make jokes about how your husband won’t be able to handle what happens in the delivery room? Or the unusually handsome doctor who seems somewhat distracted by his personal life all the time? Maybe the physician with the brilliant mind who can diagnosis your symptoms when everyone else in the hospital seems stumped but who isn’t going to hold your hand and speak with compassion when sharing the news?
I know that actors on a television show cannot replicate the challenging set of circumstances that real doctors face every day in their line of work, but I simply offer up this post as an exercise in diversion. So, I turn it to you. If you could make an appointment with any fictional doctor, who would be getting that phone call and why?
Do you struggle to find a healthy balance between your personal life and your work life? Do you feel guilty while you’re at your son’s soccer game that you left the office with at least a dozen unanswered emails? While you are staring out at a beautiful Saturday morning while spending yet another weekend at your desk, do you lament the fact that you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed a few hours with your buddies on the golf course?
Well, try digesting the concept that we are not just facing the need to find a work-life balance, but that we each have seven lives that we are trying to juggle at all times — family self, social self, spiritual self, material self, physical self, avocational self, and career self.
In a new book by Eric Sinoway entitled Howard’s Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life’s Work, he shares the wisdom he has learned from friend and Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson, including the notion that we spend our lives trying to earn perfect grades in all seven areas I just listed, and such effort only leads to frustration and a sense of failure. Instead, Stevenson argues that these seven pieces are dynamic components in our lives that are shifting in priority depending where we find ourselves in any given year and we never should try to master them all at once.
Stevenson believes that we can seek a sense of balance between all of these parts of self we are juggling by asking ourselves questions on a regular basis. I loved my profession three years ago — do I still feel the same way? What do I feel is missing in life? What makes me happy? Use your answers to move some priorities around.
Sinoway wrote this book after Professor Stevenson had a massive heart attack on Harvard’s campus and was deemed incredibly fortunate to survive.; he realized that perhaps he almost missed an opportunity to capture some important ideas from his friend and the chance to share these ideas with the world.
What do you think of the seven selves? Do you see all of them at play in your life? Do you take active, conscious steps to keep the different parts of your life in balance in a way that makes sense with how you are living right now?