Memo from the Editor: Caring

May 23, 2003

You can only devote yourself to the needs of others for so long before it gets to you.

 

Memo From The Editor

Caring

Marianne Dekker Mattera

You can only devote yourself to the needs of others for so long before it gets to you. You feel drained; you get angry; you stop caring; life looks bleak; you question why you went into medicine in the first place.

There's a term for those feelings, one even more appropriate for the caring professions than burnout. It's compassion fatigue, and you'll find in the "Do you care too much?" article detailing the condition. It offers specific suggestions on overcoming the problem. Some of them require some pretty drastic moves. For those of you who can't make big changes in the way you do things, or for those trying to ward off the problem, I'd like to offer my own suggestion.

Corny as it may sound, we get so caught up in the "ought to," and "need to" of everyday life that we forget completely the "want to" and "why" of what we're doing. The things that bring joy to the life we chose. Sometimes, just focusing on why we're doing what we're doing rekindles our will to keep doing it. Sometimes just focusing on what we wanted to accomplish in life—and that means personal things as well as professional ones—helps us see the forest and find the trail through all those endless trees that make up our days.

One way to regain that focus is to commit your hopes, dreams, and goals to paper. Write down these two questions: What three things are most important to me? Why did I become a doctor? Also write down your answers.

Keep that piece of paper where you'll see it—on your desk, perhaps; maybe fold it up and carry it with you in a pocket. When things get too hectic, when you just can't stand to see one more needy patient walk through that door, when you feel you're going to scream if there's just one more call about an insurance problem, pull it out and remember. Remember the things that are important to you, why you went into medicine—and reflect on the place this latest crisis has in the grand scheme of things. In other words, get your world back in perspective. It can help.

To help you get through your days in a more concrete way, we've also started a new series of clip-and-copy tools. The first one, a handout that will help patients appeal an insurance denial, ran last issue. This issue you'll find a form that you can use to evaluate your medical records. It can improve your efficiency and your bottom line. We'll bring you a clip-and-copy each issue. If you don't want to pull it out of the magazine, you can download it as a .pdf from our Web site.

Use them in good health. Use them to help you do what you do best—care.

 

Marianne Mattera. Memo from the Editor: Caring. Medical Economics May 23, 2003;80:9.