Our professional cardinal norm may not be to play through the pain, but it definitely involves soldiering on despite personal or professional roadblocks. We seek to never burden others in our department, practice or residency. To do so, would be letting down our “team.”
Fight for your patient, schedule multiple meetings after overnight call, work weeks without taking a day off, work sick, being available 24/7, take the shortest amount of parental leave.…I could go on for paragraphs. We have a culture where we revere those who are a warrior at work. Be it that they may have a commanding presence, they are never unsettled by microaggressions or bias, grinding through to finish their fellowship grant, running to soccer practice to watch their children, stepping on the Peleton bike at midnight and answering emails at 3:00 a.m.--all while post-call from their shift.
Being indestructible, never failing has become the rallying cry amongst physicians. And this slogan is killing us. We aren’t unique as an industry to have this appreciation of those who can ‘do it all.’ But we owe it to society to understand the value of disconnecting. To realize that we can’t, shouldn’t and aren’t expected to do it all.
“We have to change the mindset that boundaries and limits imply weakness and failure. Rather, those same boundaries will allow us to succeed and flourish and encourage our young patients to join this noble profession.”
If we, as physicians, those who feel they can never leave their patients, workplaces, research, departments can find a meaningful way to take a pause and place actual boundaries on our work lives, then other industries can follow in our footsteps. We owe it to ourselves, our patients and “our team” to take the time to check in with ourselves.
We have to change the mindset that boundaries and limits imply weakness and failure. Rather, those same boundaries will allow us to succeed and flourish and encourage our young patients to join this noble profession. Our patients want their physicians to be authentic, not the super-humans that the field of medicine has groomed us to be.
I believe we can be stronger, more impactful and more approachable leaders if we move away from this mindset of invincibility. Perhaps we can learn from this new generation of football players who are “unlearning those masculine ‘truths’ about hardened self-sacrifice and the nobility of suffering.” I, for one, did not enter the field of medicine to be a warrior. I want to be a healer, leader, and advocate. As physicians, we have plenty of grit. Let’s try to lead from a place of grace as well.
* The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Kajal Khanna MD, JD, FAAP, is a member of the inaugural Women’s Wellness though Equity and Leadership Cohort. She holds a faculty appointment as Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University and is a pediatric emergency medicine physician who focuses her academic work on equity in the emergency care for children globally. She is the founding Director of the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship at Stanford University and the Director of the Global Pediatric Emergency Equity Lab at Stanford.
She is eager to integrate innovations in well-being in how we train and practice emergency medicine and has lectured nationally on integrative nutrition and technology-based approaches to stress reduction.