Are You Setting Yourself Up for a Career Ending Injury?
By Elizabeth Anderson-Peacock, DC
We love to serve patients and help people. We love to serve so much that we often forget to serve ourselves. We dole out help like an outpouring of water from a pitcher. The only problem is one day we may wake-up to find the pitcher dry because we've forgotten to dip that pitcher back in the wellspring of energy to re-vitalize ourselves.
We're good at spotting the impact of this in our patients; aches and pains, new injuries, lack of concentration and focus while at work or play leading to accidents, exhaustion, burn-out and pre-mature degeneration, but how good are you at catching this in yourself?
What's tapping you on the shoulder and are you listening? Have you noticed that when we don't listen, the messages eventually get louder or cycles repeat in different forms? What if you could catch yourself sooner, before the "big event" occurs? What are the signs and what can we do about them? This is not a piece that's going to tell you what to do. Hopefully, it serves as a reminder to recognize signs sooner and act upon them.
Perhaps you can relate to the early years when building your practice. I remember when I started from scratch and the thought of saying no to a new patient or an office visit that was an "emergency" didn't occur to me. I wanted to be available as I was hungry and happy to serve. What I learned fairly quickly was that if I wasn't running the show, the patients were.
I'd realized quite quickly that emergencies rarely were. They were mostly people fed up with their chronic "whatever" and they wanted help in that moment. They were demanding and not accommodating. While other groups of evening patients were enjoying being home with their families to have dinner, de-compress, do afterschool activities, or workout so they could then come in to see me afterwards. My scheduling of them did not allow me to enjoy the same connection with my family and community. So, I put parameters around when I saw patients. Yes, some emergencies snuck in here and there for my existing patients, but my change was to be in the office either with an "early in-early out" or "late-in, late out" on an alternating basis. This gave me opportunities to be home some nights and still capture those patients either before or after work/school. In other words, it allowed me to participate in other things important to me.
My lesson was that the current frequency of availability at any time was not a long-term strategy that was without consequences – physically, mentally and spiritually. And if I persisted, I believe I would have become resentful.
Introduce clear practice hours that fit the values and desired life one wants to create with discretionary flexibility.
Early in my practice career, I didn't take time off. I clearly remember my first vacation and the greatest feedback from patients was, "Good, it's about time you finally you took some days off!" Sometimes our patients (staff and family) know when we are in need of a change of pace before we do. Is it selfish to take time for you? Learning to just say "no", means we're saying "yes" to ourselves. Difficult for many, but not impossible to do.
Regularly scheduled vacations and down time through out the year to reset, rejuvenate and gain perspective.
Burning the candle at both ends? Exhausted from doing too much and unable to catch up? Not enough restorative sleep? This is when I found I created injuries.
In the office, just say "No." Have you found when you attempt to be all, to all, we dilute our energies? With patients, I 've learned to put responsibility squarely back on them for things they should be responsible for. Their job is to do the homework in changing up their lifestyles and apply recommendations. As you know, many will try to pass it off to you. We don't serve them when we rob them of their self-responsibility. They do not learn, grow and develop when we tell them what to do in every scenario. So, I am a fan of teach them how to fish vs. giving them the fish. As I see it our job is to empower and assist them in making change.
Outside the office, say "Yes" to your highest passions and priorities with limits you set for yourself. Pause before you say "Yes" to avoid impulsive responses. If a request is not of your highest value or passion, say "No." Allow someone else the opportunity to take on that commitment. Re-evaluate each quarter where you are and if you should add or delete.
Doing it all in the practice; CEO, CFO, HR, chief adjusting doctor, media spokesperson, trainer, motivator and conflict resolution officer. We play lots of roles on the office which can be problematic if what you love to do is adjust. Far more than that is required to run a successful office. When we start practice I believe there's an advantage of understanding and performing in these roles but there may come a time when you can let go of micromanaging.
Leverage yourself through delegation of non-essential duties. Enrolling and empowering staff or allied professionals like accountants, radiation techs, clinical and clerical assistants. Stop micromanaging and teach self-leadership which is far more powerful than management. If you keep to your priorities, passions and do what's aligned with your values, it becomes easier to see when ego becomes infatuated with the thought of what we think we should do, versus what is true for you.