Reflect, Learn, and Engage: Tips For a Fruitful Year in Medicine

Every December, I like to perform a mental exercise that I’ve found both helpful and insightful over the years. It’s a great time to reflect on what you’ve done as a physician over the past 12 months and to help pave the way for a successful new year. Here’s a nice mantra I like to follow: Reflect, Learn, and Engage

Reflect on the good.

Look back on how your practice has done things well. This past year, our retina surgery practice of eight physicians has grown. We’ve set new highs for the number of patients seen and we’ve added a new partner. Each of us have joined the inaugural faculty at the new medical school (Dell Medical School in Austin, TX) and are excited to help mold the education of our future doctors. We also listened to our patients’ complaints and addressed them head-on by incorporated “lean” practice principles and cut our patient visit times by 75%. But most importantly, we helped our patients maintain good vision for another 12 months.

I continue to feel blessed to be a part of a group that carries the same ideals as I do.

Remember the tough times.

Maybe you had a bad complication- something that kept you up at night. Now that the initial shock and emotional stress has faded, it’s a good time to reflect on what actually happened. What could have done to prevent it and how you could have done better? Learn from it. The best thing is that it is in the past and now you know how to handle it better the next time it happens. It’s called experience.

Learn and move on.

As the calendar turns, I like to focus on an attainable goal for the upcoming year. Depending on where you are in your career, this could vary. If you’re just starting out, make it point to go out and meet one new doctor a week. At the end of the year, that’s 52 new doctors to network with. And be patient- it takes years to build a practice. At the end of each day, take note if you had a new patient visit. If you did, then congrats, you’re practice is growing.

Say you’ve been coasting along for a few years and your practice is maturing. How do you stay engaged? Set out to learn something new next year. Maybe you’re interested in learning the latest surgical techniques in your field. Or maybe you’re interested in how to code and bill properly so that you don’t leave money on the table. Maybe you're unhappy and you sat on the sidelines while the government dictated how you should practice.

Make it a point this year to go to a wet-lab and learn those techniques, go to coding camp, or join your political action committee. For me, my goal for 2017 is to continue to learn more about how digital medicine is changing our field and how to stay ahead of it.

Learning something new or getting more involved will keep you engaged in medicine and you’ll have more fun.

Having said that, maybe you’re in the twilight of your career and you feel overworked. Maybe this is the year you let go a bit. Schedule some time in your week dedicated to your long lost hobby or to spend more time with family and friends.

As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I find that when the calendar flips, it’s a logical time to hit the reset button. Take a moment to appreciate the privilege we have as physicians to care for people and reflect on how many lives we’ve touched this past year. Use the novelty of the upcoming year to refocus your energy on what you hope to and can accomplish. Prepare and execute. Do this and you’ll never be bored.

Have a wonderful and prosperous 2017!

#medicine #digitalhealth #medicaleducation #dellmedschool #healthcare #advice #medstudent #acgme

Robert Wong, MD
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