I finished reading Atul Gawande's book Better and loved his five suggestions for how a physician "might make a worthy difference" professionally. Here they are with some editing:
"1. Ask an unscripted question. . . sometimes you discover the unexpected. . .
2. Don't complain. . . resist it. It's boring, it doesn't solve anything, and it will get you down. You don't have to be sunny about everything. Just be prepared with something else to discuss: an idea you read about, an interesting problem you came across - even the weather if that's all you've got. See if you can keep the conversation going. . .
3. Count something. . . Regardless of what one ultimately does in medicine - or outside medicine, for that matter - one should be a scientist in this world. In the simplest terms, this means one should count something. . . The only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to you. . .
4. Write something. . . I do not mean this to be an intimidating suggestion. It makes no difference whether you write paragraph for a blog, a paper for a professional journal, or a poem for a reading group. Just write. What you write need not achieve perfection. It need only add some small observation about your world.
5. Change . . . make yourself an early adopter. Look for the opportunity to change. I am not saying you should embrace every new trend that comes along. But be willing to recognize the inadequacies in what you do and to seek out solutions. As successful as medicine is, it remains replete with uncertainties and failure. This is what makes it human, at times painful, and also so worthwhile."
These are excellent goals to strive to accomplish on a daily basis in practice. My favorite is the unscripted question; I've discovered so many interesting, surprising, and lovely things about my patients that have come to light after an offhand question completely unrelated to their current orthopaedic complaint. Interacting with my patients like this is one of the best parts of my job.
Sara Jurek, MD