Showing posts with label transition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transition. Show all posts

Monday, June 4, 2018

Learning how to self advocate for wellness and career advancement

I've recently been meditating on personal and professional development and in a lot of ways, maintenance. Part of it aligns with recently discussed concepts of wellness and work-life balance. Part of it also has to do with this intrinsic unsettled feeling I'm experiencing with work. I attended an academic conference recently which I believe was clarifying and is helping me to frame my approach.

Health

This all started with a dive into self care, specifically, trying to make sure that I was taking better care of this 41 year old body of mine. I had not been to a dentist in 15 years. Yes. You read that correctly. I had not seen a dentist since before medical school. Part of it was because I'm irrationally terrified of the dentist... part of this fear probably came from all those times my mother forced me to sit with her and hold her hand through many root canals and extractions while she squirmed, wiggled and held a vice grip on my hand. The other part of it was the silly thought, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The final factor was the disease of busy. I flossed. I brushed. I have a nice smile. I'm fine.

It wasn't until my little one bravely sat through the first couple of dental appointments during which we found out he had multiple cavities between all of the molars, necessitating 8 crowns, a failed attempt at in office nitrous and subsequent trip to same day oral surgery center with a pediatric anesthesiologist that I finally made an appointment. So I did it. I had a couple of cavities, needed scaling (which is a special kind or torture) and am now getting teed up for a root canal. I suppose it's not bad for 15 years. At least I'm keeping all of my teeth, for now.

Let's move on to fitness. I'd topped off the scale at 5 pounds over my full term pregnancy weight. I hated what I saw in the mirror. Inside I was happy. My outside didn't match my insides... maybe I wasn't happy. Regardless, I've spent the last year trying to make sure to make time to do tedious things like plan healthy and nutritious meals and get some exercise. I found a colleague and now friend who was an online health coach. I found a supportive environment of other busy, professional women who found time and prioritized this portion of self care and found that they ended up being happier, more patient and feeling more fulfilled all around. I found tools which were easy to implement (albeit requiring some behavior change), accountability partners and fun exercise options. I enjoyed it so much that I myself became a coach.

With everything we give to our patients, our learners and our hospitals, we absolutely must prioritize ourselves in there somewhere. Working out may not be your thing, but you have to identify what it is that recharges you and make time for it. Put it on your schedule or it will not happen. It will ebb and flow, but you've got to take care of you before you can take care of anyone else.

I still need to schedule that Pap and Mammo... I'm a work in progress.

Personal Development

Part of the company's philosophy is ensuring that you spend some time each day on your own personal development. This created an opportunity for me to read some personal development books (the former four letter "self-help" category). Below you will find the books I've gone through over the last 6 months (good grief, whoever created audiobooks is literally the best because I become narcoleptic while reading).

I've read (or listened to in audiobooks) "You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life" by Jen Sincero. She's not a physician, but she's been through some things and many of her struggles and insecurities resonated with me. She is also remarkably sarcastic and funny and I had many a laugh while listening to her book.

I followed that with "The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success" written by Darren Hardy. This dude for all intents and purposes is a self made gazillionaire and did it all with hard work and discipline, specifically with small changes every day. He had an authoritarian for a father, so we have that in common. It focuses more on the business world, however if I ever consider entrepreneurship, I'll probably revisit it.

I followed that with bits and pieces of several books from Brene Brown... "Rising Strong" and "The Gifts of Imperfection," both of which hit chords with me. Let's figure out how to pick ourselves up after we fail at something because that is what bravery truly is. It takes no energy to stay down after you take a hit. Facing the day, reflecting on how you may have been responsible for whatever you've experienced is an important lesson. Reading her book is like sitting in a therapist's office, without the $200 price tag. She's a shame researcher and she hits the nail on the head when she discusses the mountains of self imposed guilt we shoulder unnecessarily. She's also witty and sarcastic from time to time.

Next was "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson. Now, if you can move past the fact that this guy is a bit like a frat boy in his use of language, there are some important lessons to be learned. Some things just don't deserve our energy. Seriously.

My latest read is "Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace" by Jessica Bennett. I came upon this book on my way to the aforementioned conference. I knew I was specifically attending a workshop designed to appeal to women interested in leadership in academic medicine. I was looking for something which would light my fire and help me think outside the box a bit. Jessica Bennett is a journalist who specifically writes about issues of gender, sexuality and culture. In her book, she highlights the research which discusses not only how institutions may unknowingly or overtly be preventing growth of their female professionals, but also behaviors we may be demonstrating which hinder our own progress.

I take each of these books with a respective grain of salt, but it's really kind of opened my eyes to some self reflection and highlighted some things I may want to work on within myself. When we spend so much of ourselves in tending to other's needs, our own needs and need for growth can get lost in the mix.

Professional development

So, I'm an academic. I teach medical students, PA students, residents, fellows, faculty. I have sought opportunities to develop my educational niche, my ability to provide feedback, teach a skill, develop a curriculum, pitch an idea to my department chair. I teach a lot of things... probably too many things, which is why I find myself feeling stale and unfulfilled here. I feel like I've spread myself so thin that I'm doing an ordinary job at all of the things for which I'd prefer to be doing an extraordinary job. I feel like an octopus juggling knives which are on fire. Is this imposter syndrome creeping in? Perhaps, but I know I could do better with my time and efforts if I peeled away from some things.

I officially mentor some and unofficially mentor others. I've not received any training per se in mentoring, save observation of folks I hope to emulate. I don't know what the steps are. I don't know what skills to hone. It's kind of like teaching, but also very different from teaching. There should be a program for mentoring the junior mentor. There probably is, but I've not yet had the bandwidth to seek out or discover it, but it is something I need. What I found most interesting in the sessions at this conference was the focus on not necessarily seeking out the most sage mentor. Sometimes peer mentors are actually better for you as you navigate different challenges in your career.

I've been at this academic gig for 6 years now. At the conference I attended, many of the female leaders commented on "cycles" and feeling unsettled after a certain amount of time doing each of the jobs they did. That hit home for me. I feel unsettled. I want to do what I'm doing differently and I need to advance my position from my current title to the next. As such, I've been meeting with my closest mentors, having heartfelt talks about what I thought I wanted when I started, what I've done and where I see it going. I see now that I've invested a tremendous amount of time and emotional capital in one path. It was my hope that by working hard and contributing, I'd be rewarded with position. Boom!!! Words from all of the books came to mind and highlighted for me that I in fact cannot do it all and I should be asking for compensation in some way for what I am doing. You will not get 100% of the things you DO NOT ask for. I must focus my efforts on those things which are most meaningful to me in my professional life. I need a new goal. I need a promotion. So, I'm going to spend the next couple of months working on my dossier, writing papers, reviewing and revising the curricula that I am responsible for and pouring the energy freed up by letting go of tasks held by one of my octopus tentacles.

It's exciting and anxiety provoking to have this new approach and challenging in that I've never before created a dossier or gone up for academic promotion. Why didn't someone tell me about all of the stuff that goes into this? Why didn't someone tell me to keep better track of all of the lectures I taught, programs I developed, mentees I invested in, meetings I attended, evaluations I received??? This wasn't part of orientation when I became faculty. It was discussed as an afterthought in my annual meetings "You should be ready for promotion in a couple of years." After reading my most recent book, I wonder if the experience is the same for my XY colleagues. Is the assumption that because I'm a single mother, I must not be interested in promotion or advancement, so I don't really need the guidance or personal investment? To adapt a quote from Jessica's book, "No one gets shit done like a mom."

I'm trying to figure out what my professional and personal mission statement is. What are my values? What do I hold dearest to me? Do my actions align with my values and my mission? How do I parlay these reflections into actions moving forward and be sure I'm looking out for my own professional interests, professional development and advancement?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Moving with Boxes

Hi! I am so excited to join this community. I have been following since applying to medical school 6 years ago and now, med school and 2 kids later, am honored to be able to share with this community more regularly.

I am usually an upbeat, sunny side up, West Coast girl. But I would like to introduce myself with a post that bares my soul and reflects a more raw version of myself. Below is what I wrote 3 days ago, the night before getting on a plane with my husband, kids, and dog, to fly across the country to start EM residency. With the chaos of moving I didn't have a chance to share until today. I'll hopefully post a more positive update later next week!

I'm flooded. And overhwlemed. and the dam that has been holding my emotions at bay has broken and every thought, fear, feelings of guilt, absolute fear, and sense of desperation keeps washing over me, unrelenting, like a wave, as I fight the current in the tumult of emotions  that keeps pounding relentlessly. 

let me backtrack. 

when I fell in love with emergency medicine the beginning of 3rd year, I knew that was the only field of medicine for me. the pace, the variety, the sense of camarederie, the fast paced atmosphere. I was hooked. I also knew that getting a residency position in my home town would be a stretch. my step 1 scores were okay, but test day was blunted by braxton hicks contractions and running to the bathroom with my 8.5 month waddling belly and I underperformed all my practice tests by about 10 points. so when eras and interviews started, i knew that moving away from my hometown was a real possibility, if not probability. 

on match day, i told me parents and grandparents and aunts and siblings  (who all live within a 5 mile radius of me and the med school) not to come. i knew i would not get in to the top 10 rated programs in my hometown. i was right, and opening that envelope ensured that my husband, 2 kids, and i would be traveling for an adventure across the county for at least the next 3 years. 

i went into GO mode. i found a house, registered the kids for school, hired a moving company, organized a goodbye party. but we leave tomorrow. and i am now terrified. 

i had my daughter, Chicken, a few months before starting med school and my son, Monkey, after Step 1. My kids go to my parents every day after school and most weekends when i need to study. They play at my grandparents' house on Sundays. My aunts and siblings have driven more carpools and orgsnized playdates and provided last minute babysitting more times than i can count. and now i am leaving the village that helped my little family thrive in med school and we are leaving so so far away where we have none of that.

i am just so scared. so scared that my kids will feel lost and alone. so scared that they wont be able to continue strengthening the amazing relationships they have with their grandparents and great grandparents. so scared that i will ruin or permanently derail my husbands career. so scared that it is all my fault because chose too competitive of a residency and wasnt good enough to get in at home. 

i love my program. i am going to love residency. im just so scared of what i am going to mess up in the process. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On the ropes, it's a balancing act

Finding the balance.  Taking a deep breath.

Changes abound at work these days. Just when I was looking to lean out, the circumstances are urging me to lean in.  Just when I was getting into the new groove, there's a newer groove.  I suppose that keeps things exciting. "But still," as my daughter would say. 

Just when I was learning the ropes, the ropes get entangled with new knots and twists.   Such is academia.

Standing on the platform, I look around.  I like being on even footing.  Do you?  Some prefer the climb.   There are many paths ahead, many directions, some much more challenging, steeper, and uncertain.  What to do when an opportunity that is challenging, steep, and uncertain comes calling?   How to reclaim the balance?  Do I lean in, lean out, or lean in to something else?

It is always the loves of my life in my partner and our kids that keep me grounded, renewed and refreshed. Leaning on each other, for just the right amount of support.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Who Am I?

So I've been a little - scarce around here lately. My last post was in July, and that was just a link to a piece I had published on Pulse*. My last substantive post was in June, nearly nine months ago. I feel as if I don't have any material.

I still have a kid at home. Writing about her has become more challenging as she's grown older. Eve is 17 now, with her own social media presence and a keen awareness of being talked about. "Mom, you can post that on Facebook if you want to." Her story is her story, and while I have a piece of that story, it's challenging to figure out how to tell my parenting story without invading her privacy.

So I'm still a mother - but am I still "in medicine?" I left my clinical job at the end of July and since then have done a variety of different things, none of which feel much like practicing medicine. For the first time since 1986, my days are not primarily concerned with diagnosis, treatment, and notes. It's - odd. And disorienting.

I've always been determined to have an identity outside of my work, unlike some of the other docs in my family. My grandmother referred to my grandfather as The Doctor, as in "The Doctor won't be home for dinner tonight." My mother didn't do that, but she was The Doctor's Wife first and foremost, and we were The Doctor's Children. I worked fewer hours than they did, although my call still interfered with family life. I took more vacation; my dad took his first week of vacation in 1968. He started practice in 1961. I don't ask Eve's friends to call me Dr. Jay; they mostly call me by my first name. In the end, though, I still defined myself as a doctor first. Everything else is "spare time" - "In her spare time, Dr. Jay hangs out with her husband and daughter and enjoys crossword puzzles and mystery novels."

I guess now my whole life is "spare time." I'm not retired - I still need to contribute financially, and I'm figuring that out - but I know I am done with full-time clinical work. Or even significant part-time clinical work. I'm generally OK with that. I miss talking to patients, and I miss the intellectual challenge. I do not miss having to schedule my life around every third weekend call and I do not miss dragging myself out of bed after being woken up four times over night.

I hope to remain a contributor and figure out what I have to say as we prepare to help Eve launch into college, and launch ourselves into the next part of our life. Most likely, we'll all have to navigate this transition. Perhaps I can start thinking of myself as a trailblazer.

___
*I had another short piece published on Pulse during my MiM hiatus