Showing posts with label work-life balance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work-life balance. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I Am Kristie Reynolds



A little snippet of a recent email

At work, I go by Dawn Baker MD, MS. But at home, I’m sometimes known as Kristie Reynolds.


I don’t mean to give away my husband’s “Wizard of Oz”-type work secret here, but I will elaborate for the sake of this post. I highly doubt any of his clients are reading anyway. He has his own law firm, and a while ago he came up with the idea of creating a dummy admin email address for sending unpleasant or mundane emails, like reminding clients to pay their bills. It preserves the professional air of his one-man law firm and also allows him to not be “the bad guy” when it comes to collections or deadlines. It’s genius, actually. The admin’s name that he fabricated is Kristie Reynolds.

Well, Kristie has also started ordering (and apparently picking up) coffee beans for our espresso machine, and facilitating document exchange, and she recently became the voice for the firm’s voicemail greeting. Her duties have grown to the point where sometimes she is now required to perform these transactions in person. Guess who gets to be her?

It’s got me thinking about all the other roles we take on in our lives. Besides “Doctor” and “Kristie”, I’m also “Moo” - my husband’s longtime term of endearment for me. Of course, I’m now also “Mommy” - a name I’ll never get tired of answering to. And while these personas don’t have particular names, I’ve also been known at home as a cleaning lady, a driver, and a short-order cook. To my parents, I'm Daughter and Doctor; yet, they still rarely take my advice. Lately, I'm working more on blogger/entrepreneur as well, trying to grow and expand my personal blog (which means I'd better write more)!

Who are you outside of work? What are you known as besides "Doctor"?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Going part-time

I have been a little MIA here since I've joined the chaos that is being an attending!

I was once told that the first year of being an attending would be the hardest. That is quite the understatement.

I was going through so many changes this past summer. I moved out of San Diego, a place that has been home for 14 years. I joined my husband in Los Angeles and after 2 years of long distance, we are finally under the same roof! Little C started her new school. It was basically a lot of change. It was all good but with any transition, it is never smooth sailing.

Fortunately, all that stuff mentioned above went pretty smooth. Kids are so resilient. Little C had a best friend by week 2 and by the second month, she was completely adjusted. It is definitely nice seeing my husband's face in person and not via FaceTime! But it turned out, the hardest transition was my new role as an attending.

I joined a private group. I remember posting on this website about what to ask in a job interview. To sum it up, I was way too excited that I was actually getting a job that I forgot majority of the advice given to me and signed a contract without really knowing what I was getting myself into. I had a sense of what the group would be like but I went along with their assumption that as my first year out of training that I would want to jump right in, make a lot of money and be on the full-time schedule, which included a lot of weekend call and evening shifts.

Initially, it didn't seem horrible compared to residency and fellowship. But my biggest dilemma now was how do I juggle being an attending and a mom without my own mom? My mom has been more than a grandma the past 4.5 years since little C was born. She was her primary caregiver for 2.5 years and the following 2 years of my long distance with my husband, she was available for every single sick day, call, evening shifts and weekend obligations. But I wanted to hold true to my promise that she would be a grandma once I became an attending. I think I really burnt her out the past almost 5 years and I think it was starting to put a dent in our relationship so this was new territory for me.

I found an incredible nanny to help with picks ups and drop offs but I was often very frustrated as to why I was working this hard and still not getting the work life balance that I thought I would ultimately have once I became an attending. I grew very unhappy, bottled it all up inside and did something I never thought I would do.

I quit.

But the most surprising twist of all was that my resignation wasn't taken and instead I was asked what would be my ideal schedule. I was shocked. I didn't expect such encouragement and flexibility. It took some convincing because I didn't think I deserved this kind of special treatment being so fresh out of training but it turns out, there were many people in the group who had different contracts that accommodated their lifestyles.

I thought I would let the group down if I didn't work the regular full-time schedule. I thought I was selfish asking to be taken out of the call pool and to only work from the hours of 8-5. But trying to quit ended up being the best decision ever. I got my dream schedule. I finally have time to work out for the first time in 5 years. I have the luxury of dropping off and picking up little C from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And the idea of second child is exciting now, rather than terrifying!

I feel like I can finally breathe now after 6 years of holding my breath and just trying to survive during residency and fellowship. I finally did it. I got my work-life balance. It's never perfect but I can work with this. So my take away lesson from all of this is don't be scared to ask for what you want, preferably without having to go through an almost resignation like myself!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

this little wiggly squirming miracle in my belly

I just stopped on the MiM website when it dawned on me, I haven’t posted in 3 months?!? What in THE world?

I realized it’s because I’ve been holding my breath for the last few months. Putting all of my energy into cooking up a healthy baby. Doing my dag-on best to not stress and submit to this process of life after loss.

I posted in August that we are welcoming our second child. This little baby is now about the size of a butternut squash, just shy of 29 weeks and the third trimester. It wiggles and flips, squirms and dips all of the time. I’m in love.

I’ve been holding my breath. The first 12 weeks I fretted every time I used the bathroom with a prayer of “please no blood, please no blood, please no blood”. And there wasn’t any blood! 4 early ultrasounds later I knew this one was a strong one with a heartbeat like it’s big brother Zo (many thanks to the sweet Ultrasound Tech at my hospital and at my obstetrics office who let me see the baby’s heart beat so many times and hugged me as I cried each time). It’s been strong since it made its first appearance with my linea nigra at 3 weeks.

Balancing part-time work with a first grader and tenure track husband is no small feat. I am so thankful that pursuing medicine has afforded me with the ability to work part-time and still live quite comfortably. I am able to eat delicious, healthy food, attend prenatal pilates class weekly., see a chiropractor for my aching back and hips twice a week as prescribed, volunteer at Zo’s school, be the Parent Teacher Association Co-Secretary, and have days every week to myself with my favorite Netflix series (Supernatural season 4 of 28 and She’s Gotta Have It!). Though I am exhausted at the end of my office days seeing pediatric patients, I am so thankful for those days. I get to see my patient grow. They get to see me grow. And I am now getting advice from everyone about welcoming another baby into our world. I love my staff. I love my patients.

I love this little wiggly squirming miracle in my belly. Here’s to 10 more weeks of us being conjoined. Please stay healthy. Please stay healthy. Please stay healthy. You are so strong. You are so strong. We love you so much. We love you so much. We love you so much.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No big surprise, but…I’m still tired

I’m currently mid staycation with my daughter, and I disobeyed my own advice.  I overplanned.  As a result I set myself up for constant disappointment because, I AM TIRED.  I’m now re-grouping and re-thinking.  Just getting done what I can, hanging out with my girl and enjoying her warm little hugs - realizing it doesn’t matter if we make it to every museum and live kids music performance and puppet show imaginable.  She just wants to hang out and read Rainbow Fairy books.  I have the same bleary eyed overwhelmed tiredness of residency staycations, and it’s a little bit of a revelation.

Attending life is full of new challenges.  I have called patients and set up appointments and reviewed pathology this entire break.  I can’t emotionally separate from what is going on.  There are many good changes - I do have increased control over my schedule, autonomy, and there is a more personal sense of fulfillment.  But, I am still so tired.  I feel constantly behind at home and at work - there is always more to do.  Part of the reason we’re having a staycation is just I didn’t have the energy or time to plan a proper vacation.

So, I’m writing this post as proof that from this moment on I will close my laptop and try to unplug.  And in a few days I will be back, hopefully energized just a bit so that I can keep moving.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Mindfulness or multi-tasking as a mother in medicine

And then she said, “Wait what?”   

As a mother in medicine, are you engaging in mindfulness, or are you a multi-tasker?  Perhaps that’s too simplistic of a question, as it’s not necessarily an either/or.  The complexity may rest in which of these two are you striving for? 

My challenge is I find I’m striving for both.  I want to be more mindful and present with the people I’m with, but with things I want to multi-task.  When I’m with my family, I should be with my family.  When I’m with my students I should be with my students.  When I’m with my patients I should be with my patients.  When I'm in a meeting, I should be with the meeting members... that last one is a hard one!  What if you find yourself with people and it’s not worth your while?  When it’s not engaging.  When you have sooooooo many competing priorities and demands.  Do you exit (physically or mentally)?  Do you meditate or do you multitask or do you make your way out the door?

And, what about when the people aren’t fully present with you?  I’ll wait… And I’ll aim to make being there, being here, worthwhile. 

Maybe the key is to be mindful and fully present with people, and to multi-task effectively with things. But that may also mean you have to be around the "right" people and do the "right" things... the people and things that give your life meaning!

I guess it’s kind of a topic or conundrum for us, the busiest people.  And on that, do we agree that the busiest are the mothers in medicine?

Monday, August 21, 2017

clocking

I have never been one to track my periods, but then life happened and now I am tracking them religiously.

I think back to when it all began. I was one of the last of my friends to get my period. Even though my mother had prepared me with books and talks, I still thought death was imminent when it started. So once they occurred regularly, I just went with it. No charting. No tracking.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties as a medical student. My husband and I decided to have a child before starting residency because it seemed like a good plan. Thankfully Little Zo established himself promptly after discontinuing my IUD. 3 weeks after. I had little knowledge of how truly a blessing that was.

And then life happened. The stories of loss and infertility began to trickle in. A cousin whose first child was conceived in our 20s using in vitro fertilization and who is still paying bills for it; she has been trying for years for baby #2. The friend and aunt who have both suffered multiple miscarriages. The friend who experienced a molar pregnancy and had to consider radiation therapy. The best friends who suffered a stillbirth that I wrote about here: http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2013/07/life-loss-and-celebrations-of-love.html

Once settled into attendingdom, O and I decided to try again in order to give Zo that sibling he sometimes mentioned. I wrote in my post on December 29, 2016 entitled “(all is not) lost” about our miscarriage (http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2016/12/all-is-not-lost.html). It was devastating.

And now, without even realizing it, I have begun tracking my cycles. 3 after the IUD was removed and then we were pregnant with number 2. And then the miscarriage.

My D&C surgery was in January 2017. And every month thereafter I prayed my cycle would return. Was that pinch the beginnings of my cycle? Was that the beginning of ovulation. 3 months later, my cycle returned. And each month that went by we still weren’t pregnant. And then. Last menstrual period May 17, 2017. We are overwhelmingly happy, frightened, joyful, petrified, and elated. Big brother Zo is happy. Thus begins a new clocking of days, weeks, and trimesters. Second trimester begins this week. So thankful.

Friday, July 28, 2017

End of training!

Hello Mothers in Medicine readers,

I am Geraldine Chang. I go by Geri. I have been X-ray vision for a couple years now. Thank you for reading about my struggles of balancing motherhood, long distance marriage and residency and then fellowship. It has been hard for someone like myself who is an open book to be anonymous. However, I was always cautious during training to be so open about my thoughts and opinions.

Anyways, that ship has sailed! I officially graduated from my breast imaging fellowship on June 30th, 2017. I am currently very much enjoying unemployment, which is coming to an end. I did my residency and fellowship in San Diego and now I will be starting a private practice job in Los Angeles. After two years of being apart, my family is now all under the same roof! It has been absolutely wonderful.

But now reality is sinking in. I am about to start my FIRST attending job, which begins next Monday and I am hot mess of emotions ranging from fear to excitement. I hope to be honest and open about my endeavors as a first time attending, expanding my family in the near future and continuing this balancing act all of us workings mom do!

I had it in my head that a lot of the problems during residency and fellowship as a mom would magically disappear when I became an attending! Silly right? But I needed some of that ignorant bliss to get me through all the training but as I was ending my fellowship, I realized there is no magical solution to balancing motherhood and a career. You just have to do what's right for you.

My mom has been pretty much my only source of child care the first two years of little C's life. I am forever grateful but it has been hard on her and also our own relationship. She's no longer an option. After being with little C alone for 2 years in San Diego while big C was doing his fellowship in New Haven for 1 year and another year as an attending in Los Angeles, I grew a lot as a mother and as physician. People asked me how I did it all the time. To be honest, I don't know. When you have to do something, you just do it. And it never ends. But a lot it is just perspective (and a lot of coffee!).

Right now, I am feeling grateful for this new job. I am grateful for the flexible schedule, the obvious increase in pay and mostly, I am grateful that I get a provide my daughter with an example on how you really can do it all. Do you remember me? I wrote a guest blog on this very website.  Here it is--http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2013/07/guest-post-hard-decision.html

I wish I could give that girl a hug. She really needed one. I still can't read that post without crying because the overwhelming guilt I felt comes back and I feel it to the very core.

But now I know, it all works out. I tell myself this as I am getting ready for a whole new set of growing pains, which includes new job, new school and nanny for little C and overall, a new routine and with that I know will come with some degree of mom guilt.

Thanks for being my support. Thanks for listening! Now that I am no longer X-ray Vision, you can also read my personal blog to little C at www.doctormomwifealloftheabove.blogspot.com or follow me on instagram at gerichangmd.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Time To Move On



Hi, I’m new here.  And very honored to be here, at that.  I’m a pathologist, in private practice for > 5 years (settling in to the flatter portion at the top of the exponential career curve of knowledge/abject terror), but < 10 years (I suspect, the point on that curve at which cynicism overrides all other basal functions and drives one towards a retirement countdown sticker chart).

I’m in my second post-training big-girl-pants job, and I’ve been here for a little over 8 years.  I briefly tangled with a super-crap job, lasting only six months right out of training, working for a very bad man rocking various personality disorders.....but that will be another story for another day.  This current job is where I became an adult.  And this job is where I damn near had my love for pathology drained of my brain completely.  But it’s time to move on, and I’m doing just that.

Over a period of years, I had somehow found myself struggling to get through the work day, doing twice as much work as is safe to do, getting paid a quarter of the money being made off of my back.  I had become everything to everyone in my office and to the clinicians in the hospital, and nothing to myself professionally. I hated every minute of it.  And my marriage was suffering for the long hours, which I finally figured out after hearing myself in every conversation trying to justify my absences. It just didn't sound authentic to me. Working 60+ hours a week as a pathologist is not particularly normal. But it took a while for me to figure this out -- Stockholm syndrome is real, ya'll. And then, nearly exactly two years ago I had a gorgeous baby girl, induced at 36+1 weeks for oligohydramnios, weighing in at a whopping 4 lbs 15 oz.  And my placenta was just as small as that tiny girl, 5th percentile.  Everything was "fine" until it wasn't.  I've since learned that many of the births to female docs in similar situations to myself are premature for various reasons, commonly for oligo……………can’t help but think there is a link there. 

I’ve worked with some wonderful people over the years while doing this job.  Most of the ones who have stayed for longer than a year are the type that persevere long past the expiration date, and they just keep on going.  Each seems to have his or her own reason for doing so:  'finish what you start', 'I cannot be defeated', 'everyone will like me eventually', 'it’s not really that bad', 'I deserve this pain', 'it is too hard to change'.  What is my reason?  I’ve already made too many mistakes.  This can’t be another one.  I can make this work.  My family is depending on me.

Life is too short to stay in a job that is soul-crushing.  No job is perfect certainly, but no job should harm your psychic core or fizzle your spark.  If you don’t recognize the person that you were, that idealistic nerdling resident, marveling at those exquisite enterocytes mingling with those gorgeous goblet cells, and you can’t find her deep down in there somewhere………..it’s time to make a change. And preferably before that gal has packed up her shit and moved to the outer recesses of the universe, never to be seen or heard from again.  Mistakes will always be made, some big and some small, but they can always be corrected.  Be the change, as they say (whoever they may be).  You always have the power to make things better.  I have become a path beast during my time here, and now I’m doing my best not to become a pathological beast.  Put yourself into the situation that you want to be in, whatever that may be.  It could take awhile, sometimes may even take eight years and some major life changes.  Remove yourself from the people and entities who take everything from you and give nothing back in return.  I’m doing just that in short order.  Even though it’s a move to a more backward state than the one in which I currently reside, but that’s yet another story for another day………

Take care of yourself first, the rest will follow.

Progress and peace to my fellow burnout warriors :0)
TheUnluckyPath

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stay at Home Starchitect

All Spring my husband researched options. He had a great job, and they loved him so much they gave him leave without pay to get extra vacation time with  me and the kids (standard for architects is 2-3 weeks and I get much more than that), but he was tired of working on multimillion dollar housing projects in other cities - jobs that take months to complete. After exploring other job offers, he met with my financial advisor and decided to take a plunge from the corporate world and form an LLC. He would work from home and start his own business. He gave notice at his job a couple of months ago.

The first week he was home it was as if the boil of logistics that was our life, a life I knew no variation of in this marriage or my last, was lanced. He has always pitched in as much as he could, but this was different. Someone to be there to get packages. Let the bug guy in the house. Get one of our kids to the impossible 2:00 in the afternoon orthodontist appointment. Grab the cake for the birthday party. Get the honey we forgot at the grocery store last weekend that left my morning eggs unbalanced and naked. As end of school transitioned to summer, it became even more rewarding. My kids at 14 and 12 are old enough to be alone now, but having an adult at the house to check in with before they walked to the local pool to meet their friends and receive them when they return is a huge bonus. Someone to drive them to a sleepover earlier than 5:00. Someone to eat lunch with them. And we agreed, most importantly, the bonding of their relationship, stepdad to kids, as the kids are reaching an unprecedented age of independence.

He has already turned our guest bedroom into a sleek home office and is starting to craft a business card and do some research. The many contacts he made in the past have already landed him side gigs. And he is happier - getting a long bike ride in every other day. Not having the pressure of 8:30-5:30. That happiness makes our house happier - not that we weren't before, but it's better in a way I could not have imagined. So much so that I suggested he take some time off. Take it slow. We are traveling much in the month of June, so maybe wait to gain traction until July. He is more than amenable.

I don't want him to become the carpooler come Fall - we both want his business to succeed. So I'll put boundaries around his time - maintain an aftercare driver to get the kids from school and to all their activities. But this level of support is nothing short of mind blowing. So I was surprised one night last week when jealousy reared its ugly head. I didn't share my feelings with him at the time, but it was 12-15 hours of why do you get to do this and I don't circling my angry brain and it came off as crankiness and being short one evening. I was jealous he had lunch with the kids. I was jealous of his time during the day to exercise.

Now, to be fair, last week was one of the hardest weeks I've had in a while - call duties, high caseloads every day, terrible work drama, some family drama, and autopsy drama of all things. So I was grinding my teeth getting work done and working very hard to center myself and approach every issue with as much grace and calmness as I could muster. And I think I succeeded, and am happy I sold away my call weekend so I could get in some much needed chill time. But I knew I needed to explore this jealousy thing, so I did one morning at the scope.

He is very different than me. He tends to work better without boundaries around his time. He can adhere to our family schedule, and plug in to work at night when the kids are not with us. Not me. In the past, when I had time off between my first marriage and med school, I quickly lost myself to entropy. I watched Lifetime all day long. I quit exercising. One or two hours on the couch turned into one or two months. So much so that my then husband worried. "I think you always need a job. Please tell me you will always have a job or be in school." To be fair, I didn't have kids back then, and I was in my twenties, but I think he was right about my personality. I need to be responsible to someone or something in order to feel personal reward. Schedules anchor me. My cases, the patients behind them, the frozens, bronch lab, interventional radiology, it's a fuel that keeps me going and performing. Last week was too much, but most weeks aren't filled with all of that. I would not want to be a stay at home pathologist, not only because I don't think that's possible yet but I also need space away from my house to be productive at what I do. The hospital is my sacred space.

So I breathed and apologized the next night for my crankiness and told him about where it came from. He agreed to make space in the evenings for me to work out like we used to together on nights without kids instead of wanting to eat as soon as I get home. And he brought the kids to work one day to eat lunch with me - the kids hadn't done that in a long time and I know we will do it again this summer we all had a blast.

I remember when I was going through my divorce or maybe a new single mom KC won a well deserved prestigious award for starting this blog. In an acceptance speech she was tasked with advice to being a successful mother in medicine. Her first piece of advice was to marry well. I'm proof that if you don't get it right the first time, for whatever reason, it's possible to get it right the second time.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Tell the truth, as soon as you know it

It was a Thursday evening and I had just gotten off from back to back shifts, first a full day in private practice and then a hospital training for my new gig. Zo was riding his bike up and down the street. My husband O catches me on the porch and says, “have a seat, I need to tell you something”. My heart sank, I knew this wasn’t going to be a good conversation. He proceeds to tell me about how Zo had stabbed another student in the neck at school. This is one of those students who is always crying, always dramatic, always asking for a hug. The student had cried and gotten a band-aid and Zo had gotten in big trouble.

I began crying. Ashamed. Scared. Worried. More shame. Guilt. Fear. I had flashbacks of when I had gotten into a fight in high school and the look of worry and concern on my parents’ faces. I didn’t understand then, but in that moment, I fully understood. You work so hard to raise well-rounded, empathetic, gentle humans and then they go and do something so utterly stupid that you lose your breath, you lose all sense, you feel like a failure.

O proceeded to explain to me how he had managed it. He decided to handle it while I was at work between the men-folks. He had picked Zo up early. He had talked to him first and then he even met with the the School Psychologist, Assistant Principal, his Teacher, and the Teacher’s Aide. My husband had cried once they returned home due to fear, shame, guilt, and an outpouring of emotions. He called one of our friends who has an 8 year old son and they walked through an appropriate discipline plan. O talked to Zo a lot and explained how we have to have “gentle hands” all of the time. By the time I got home things were smoothed over. I was saddened that yet again I was at work, but I was proud of my husband for the way he handled things. O is the more calm and collected parent and I begrudgingly admitted that it was good that he was the one who had picked Azola up.

Zo finally came down the street and saw me on the porch. He came to give me a hug and then put his head down and said “did you hear about my behavior?” and then we talked about how he had hurt his friend at school. I explained that I was very disappointed. He promised never to do it again.

I texted the other parent, a stepmother, who had been a little flighty in the past. I asked if we could talk about what happened and we set up a time. That time came and went. I reached out again. Same thing. Apologies. The weekend went by. We continued to talk to Zo about being gentle and that it was important never to hurt others.

Then on Monday I get a text from Zo’s teacher asking had I heard what really happened. I quickly texted back and learned that Zo HAD NOT stabbed another child in the neck, but that on Friday they had learned from the stepmother and father of the little boy ON FRIDAY AFTER SCHOOL that Zo had been dared to break a plastic fork and that a tooth of the fork had popped up and hit the other boy in the neck. The kids had thought this meant that Zo had stabbed him.

So after an agonizing weekend feeling like failures of parents, all the stepmother had to do was text me and say something like “hey, you know Zo didn’t really stab my son, right?” and that would have changed things considerably. Zo wouldn’t have been disciplined. Why didn’t the family tell the truth as soon as they learned it? I would have! Why schedule a time to talk and then miss it and not say anything?

I wish those parents had told the truth as soon as they’d known it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Looking back, looking ahead



As I hang up my short white coat after my last clinical rotation of medical school, after the celebrations of commencement week subside (I have had more than my fair share of these), and before the reality and terror of starting as an intern starts to set in, I find myself looking back and looking ahead. What a wild ride these past years in medical school have been! Spending all these years preparing for the first day of internship. Along the way, also learning on the job of raising a child. As I enjoy the lull of these last few carefree days between completing medical school and starting internship, every now and then I feel like I should brush up on my clinical knowledge to allay intern year anxieties. Then I remind myself that no amount of preparation could have really "prepared" me for being a parent or a medical student, and nothing will really make me feel "ready" for intern year. Best to savor this time with family and friends.

Recently I came across this article in the New York Times titled "The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood". It goes on to discuss not only the impact of motherhood on income, but also career decisions made by mothers to give up job opportunities, inequitable distribution of household and parenting responsibilities. Looking back at that experience of mixing parenting and medical school, I have reflected on how things would have been different if I didn't have my baby during medical school? How would things have been if I had gone through this experience without being a parent? I may have done better in some rotations, or gotten better grades on some tests. In the end, those things didn't matter as much as I thought they did. I ended up matching to what and where I wanted to end up for residency. Even if I had a perfect application for residency, my desired outcome wouldn't have changed.

I am pretty early in my career to measure the impact of motherhood on my career and quantify it in terms of lost opportunity or income. In some ways, I can't imagine the alternate reality of going through the medical school experience without my son, my experience as a medical student is so completely intertwined with being a new parent. Sleepless nights dealing with baby eating into precious few hours to sleep during clinical rotations. Being in a perpetual rush to pickup or drop off my toddler from or to daycare. Dealing with meltdowns in the morning struggling not to be late. Preparing for tests while distracting my toddler without distracting myself from studying. However dealing with the responsibility of raising a little human taught me patience, empathy and humility, which I like to believe, made me a better human being and will make me a better doctor.

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.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

On Family Medicine

I wondered during undergrad if I could do medicine and "have a life". I didn't have a lot of first-hand contact with physicians, and had just started to consider a career in medicine, so I really didn't know what a medical lifestyle was like. I knew it could be incredibly demanding and busy, but I wasn't sure how much flexibility there would be. In the end I suppose I still didn't really know, but I figured if others did it, I could figure it out too.

We had the chance to get early clinical exposure at my medical school. I had always planned to do family medicine, so every Wednesday afternoon in my first year, I would take the bus to the family medicine clinic of Dr. B. Dr. B's patients adored her. She truly listened to them, and was clinically excellent too. Seeing patients -- real people with real problems! -- was thrilling. I get a reminder of this from time to time in my office when I have early medical students join me. Looking at a tympanic membrane is exciting to them! It's a great boost. 

During medical school, I went through the "cardiology! neurology! infectious diseases!" rotation in my mind, until it was clear that being a generalist was what I wanted. Internal medicine was tempting, as I actually enjoy learning minutiae, but I loved women's health, pediatrics, and doing preventative care. The flexibility of a career in family medicine was unmatched in my eyes. So from clerkship onward, I continued to feel that family medicine was the right fit for me. 

I now have a family practice of about 1200 patients in a small group practice, and see patients for about 30 hours per week.  Charting, results and other paperwork takes about 8-10 hours a week.  I block one day off every month for self-care or catch-up time - with young kids, if I have to cancel a clinic due to their or my illness, it’s nice to have a day available to re-book patients. I can book off in advance for appointments for the kids or myself, or fit in local CMEs or meetings related to some community health work I do. The demands of my practice - and of home - fluctuate from week to week, but generally it feels like a good balance. 


I ran into a lovely, well-meaning non-medical friend a little while ago. "How's work going?" she asked. "Ah, it's been a long week." I said. "Lots of coughs and colds?" she mused. "If only!" I thought. I tell this to students a lot: family medicine can be very challenging, medically, and very draining, emotionally. So rather than things like a chest cold or plantar wart being boring and mundane, they can be a very welcome break from the challenging things we see at times.  The medically complex cases are invigorating, and the emotionally draining cases, highly meaningful; the "mundane" cases act as a much-needed foil. And above all, when you know your patients like you do in family medicine, it becomes much more about caring for the person in front of you than about the particulars of their issues. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Many Balls Can I Juggle?

I've been trying to dig deep and reflect on my own work-life balance... I feel like I'm living in a world in which my mantra to my learners and advisees is "Do as I say, not as I do."

I love to teach. I'm in an academic position because I thrive on teaching while working clinically. I teach medical students, residents, fellows and am engaged in faculty development. I'm encouraged by my mentors to "be academically productive" however I'm not entirely clear what that means. Write, publish, be educationally innovative, do research, stay sane and be a good mom and a good doctor. 

I need a new organizational scheme. My most successful portion of my organization is my google calendar. I literally cannot do anything without it. I've got it color coded and labeled. My week in view is dizzying with color coordination and notes. My to do lists, however, are scattered between different notebooks, notes on my phone, loose pieces of paper that find their way into the ether. I need a new work flow solution. I need to find a way to keep track of things and move my academic work forward in meaningful ways.

I sat down in a coffee shop the other day to try to make sense of it all and stratify things into columns and was overcome by this subtle feeling of butterflies and anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I've never really been ridden with anxiety, however this discomfort is rearing its head more and more frequently... feeling like I'm missing something, am forgetting something, am going to drop a ball, be found out as a fraud who cannot "do it all."

While I'm not junior in life, being a "non-traditional" physician, prior career as a nurse, I am early in my career as an academic physician. As such, I feel this pressure to continue to do things which further my personal and professional development. At the same time, I want to be sure that I am giving my son the time and dedication he needs from his mom.

As an ER doc, my schedule is widely variable, shifts in the day, evening, night, weekends, holidays. Sharing my son with his father affords me the opportunity to work academically without interruption about half of the time. There's still work which needs to be done when I have him. So, I try to balance it by not working while he's awake. Sometimes I'll have a random Tuesday free and we do arts and crafts, read, go to the park, ride bikes, run around playgrounds, run errands. These are the precious moments I hope he will remember and treasure... I know I do. We make meals together, he shares his days spent with my nanny and daycare and at night, I tuck him into bed, sometimes dozing with him. He looks at me beforehand, puts his little hand on my face and says "Mommy, I love you bigger than the Earth." After drifting off with him for a bit, I get up and set my sights on my late evening tasks... emails, curriculum development, evaluations, mentoring grand rounds presentations via chat mediums or Google Hangouts or FaceTime. 

I sit here sipping my chai tea, reviewing important dates for the next academic year, the next evolution of my growth and development as an educator, curricula which need updating and modification to be in line with current educational methodology, exploring alternative ways in which to teach and engage learners in an overall curriculum which has less and less "time" for what I feel needs to be included. 

I feel fortunate to have been given some incredible opportunities to take on leadership positions and influence our future doctors. How many of these am I capable of managing? Am I giving each of these precious opportunities the time and dedication required? Am I being the best educator and physician that I can be? Am I being the best mom I can be? Am I seeking out mentorship appropriately to optimize my productivity? Am I interfacing with the right people? Am I serving my learners to the best of my ability?

My life is a concept map.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mandatory meeting...CHILDCARE PROVIDED

I have posted before about how much I love my job.  I am honored to work with so many amazing people.  Quite recently a revolutionary change has occurred for our late departmental meetings…childcare is provided (as well as dinner).  Such a simple offering means SO much. These special surgeon kid playtimes are now one of the highlights of my daughter’s social calendar!

Below I have posted (with permission) the beautiful and inspiring blog post of our amazing Clerkship Coordinator after the first childcare night. I am so proud of us.  I am so proud of who my daughter (the 6 year old described below) is becoming.  I am proud of this department, of my profession and the future that we are creating for our girls as Mothers in Medicine…

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From the blog of JP -

When I was a kid, about 25 years ago, I overheard my mother repeating a riddle that had been told to her. In short, a young boy and his father were in a car accident. The father died immediately upon impact. The boy was rushed to the hospital. Once in the OR, the surgeon stands over the boy and simply declares, "I cannot operate on this child. He is my son." So the riddle goes, if the father was killed in the accident, how on Earth is this possible? Keep in mind, the riddle is at least 25 years old.

I listened as folks stumbled over themselves with the most absurd answers, "The dad hadn’t really died." "The surgeon was the boy’s step-father!" "The father was not his biological one and the surgeon must have been the boy’s sperm donor." The answers came and went and when the person finally threw their hands up in defeat, the person telling the riddle simply replied, "It was the Mom! The boy's mother was the surgeon!" Gasped responses immediately followed; these gasps were made as if to imply extreme bewilderment that a woman, A MOTHER, could be a surgeon. Nonetheless, the folks on the receiving end of the riddle felt embarrassed for not offering the most overlooked obvious answer even if they could not fathom a female with a scalpel.

Fast forward 25 years, I just spent my evening at work doing arts and crafts with two children of surgeon faculty members so that said parents could engage in an after-hours faculty meeting.  I brought all of my craft items from home so the young girls could make various winter holiday crafts. At one point I noticed one of the girls (6 in age) was making a gingerbread man. I quickly praised her on her great artistry, "Hey! That’s a great gingerbread man!" I pointed out. "That's not a gingerbread man!" she quickly declared. I was caught completely off guard. Y'all. I'm telling you. It was a gingerbread man!  Before I could ask her what it was (since I was so offensively incorrect), she proudly exclaimed, "It’s a gingerbread GIRL!" Immediately, a grin washed over my face. I'd only met this child within the hour. Our time was consumed with learning each other's nicknames, teacher's names and favorite colors. Feminism 101 had yet to make it to our arts and crafts agenda. I wanted to high five her. I wanted to spin around in circles and dance giddily in only the way excited 6 year old girls do. But instead, I nodded, and told her it was the most amazing gingerbread girl I'd ever seen.

Within the next hour, the other little girl (8 in age) casually announced that she was creating a top hat for her snow woman. SNOW WOMAN! Did I hear her correctly? Snow woman!! Yes! And she'd said so, so nonchalantly. It's as if Frosty the Snowman wasn't the first... the only...the standard! “Every snowwoman needs a top hat!” I replied.

If I'd told that 25 year old riddle, now, to both of these young girls, they would have quickly and without hesitation answered that the boy's surgeon was obviously his mother. I am confident of this.

It was in that moment, and for the rest of the evening, I stood proud; proud of the progress women had made in the last 25-30 years. Proud to have been able to witness, in my lifetime, such dramatic change, albeit long overdue and with still so much progress yet to be had. I was proud to be a female working in surgery education. I was proud to work for a team with so many female surgeons. I was proud to work under the leadership of a successful woman, whom not only was a General Surgeon, but also the Program Director of the General Surgery Residency program.  I was proud to work for and with a group of smart and successful women who greatly value their profession and equally, their role as a mother. I was proud that these young girls were exemplifying everything I’d known to be true as a child, but always felt so disconnected with. Perception was no longer reality. The reality had finally become perception! These mothers, these brilliant successful female surgeons, they are paving the way for the next generation of gingerbread girls and snow women to achieve greatness.

This is how we lift each other up. We create an environment in which we welcome one another's children so that we and they grow enlightened, encouraged, educated, inspired and excited by possibilities. We embrace the difficult balance. My God, the balance is difficult. We dispose of the box that which we were placed in and we become assertive in our ideas of becoming both brilliant and successful professionals as well as invested mothers. And it doesn't just begin and end with women, my friends. We must embrace our professional fathers as well! We are only as good as our counterparts. Our strengths are magnified when we surround ourselves with other strong, confident and supportive human beings.

I am grateful to be able to contribute to their (our) mission.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

In the dark quiet of the last day of 2016

Oh, no. Not a New Year's Resolution post. Who needs another "Live healthier, Be a better doctor, Be a better mom" post?

Well, I do.

Genmedmom here.

It's 6:30 in the morning on Saturday, December 31st, 2016, and I'm sitting typing in the quiet dark of our house. No one is stirring except for our two big spoiled cats, who relentlessly knocked things off of my nightstand until I got up.

You know how you get really busy, barely any downtime to even answer the texts from old friends, never mind call them, and all the very small spaces in your life are stuffed with overflow tasks, like making shopping lists on your phone on the train, and never going up or down your stairs without having something in your arms that needs to go up or down, like dirty laundry down and folded clean stuff up, empty tea mugs down and toilet paper rolls from the basement up, wrapped gifts down and unwrapped stuff up, so many goddamned toys and factory-new clothes and the boxes, tissue and gift bags that you can't bear to toss that will clutter your home until next year too, and even with your superior physician multitasking skills you realize you're screwing up, like forgetting to RSVP for that thing and being late paying that bill and getting lame last-minute crap for the important staff member you totally spaced out, and then even the doctor stuff starts slipping (which is always last to go, right?) like that you promised to personally get back to your longtime dear patient on a result that wasn't critical but it was important to HER and you totally intended to check that on the holiday weekend and simply send her a quick message through the online portal and you just did not do it.

Then the kids get sick, and you get sick, and any delusion of control you had goes down the toilet with the first bowl of vomit. Your Christmas agenda: poof.

Barf.

But life marches on and there's still things to do and when everyone is (mostly) better you try to keep going, get yourself and the family to rescheduled gatherings and pick up where you left off with the gifts and the cards and the outings for school vacation. Maybe you start losing track of what's really important and what's just life and lose your cool, show your frustration, yell at your kids when the situation just doesn't merit a freakout. No one is running towards a busy street or about to drink drain cleaner, they're just jumping on the couch and throwing pillows and wrestling and, well, not listening to you when you order them to get their shoes on because you're late or pick up that banana peel and take it to the trash or SETTLE DOWN already. And when they react to your red-faced temper with sass and disrespect, maybe you throw the remote control across the living room and when it lands on the hardwood with an unexpected clatter, your kids stare at you with a sad, silent combination of shock and wonder and fear that you hope you never see again.

You know you're out of balance and that this is not right and this is not you.

So in the dark quiet of a holiday weekend morning when, miraculously, there is no event planned nor pressing task nor other thing of perceived great import, you sit and breathe and resolve:

This year, I will live healthier, be a better doctor, be a better mom. I will do this by uncluttering my headspace. I will leave the little breathing spaces empty. For breathing. I will remain thoughtfully committed to my medical practice and remember the high standards I hold for myself. I will love my family, my children,  always reflecting on how blessed we are, how much we have and enjoy in this very difficult modern world. I will pray for those who are struggling and suffering, every day, I will not forget them.

Happy New Year and God Bless.