Bedside Lessons – 9. Doctor to Doctor Part 1

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Doctors are humans too and can become just as unwell as anyone else. When a doctor is assessing another doctor it can feel a bit strange. You might be assessing someone who has had the same training as you have, who may have worked as a doctor for much longer than you have yourself.

I’m usually calm in my approach to patients, well at least that’s what it looks like on the surface. I remember being particularly nervous one day when I was in my second year of being a doctor, as I had to admit one of the Professors that had taught me during medical school. One of the nicer guys who was always generous with his knowledge and time, always trying to nurture the next generations of doctors. He was not well and needed a complete work-up.

I started to see him and the usual procedure involved inserting an IV line and taking off some blood tests. I was about to stab one of Prof’s veins when the head of the department, a female professor, who had also been one of my teachers walked in and watched the proceedings intently. The needle went in, blood was taken, and then my patient Prof number one turned grey and looked like he was about to faint.

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I think therefore I am? – Life can literally be too short

Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash

You’d think that we know this all too well working in palliative care/hospice but we are just as human as everyone else. We also get lost in the busyness of life in general. Rushing from one appointment to the other and having to switch roles as seamlessly as possible. I am no different to anyone else. I don’t have all the answers and am still searching for them myself but I want you to have a think about some questions I raise below.

Life is too short could be a stimulus to reflect on how you spend your time. Are you in a job that you actually enjoy? Do you feel like you are making a difference. We spend a lot of our time at work, 8 or more hours a day, maybe for 40+ hours a week, month after month, year after year. A big chunk of our lives is spent at work, and you may be spending more time with your workmates than you spend with your own loved ones, friends, and family. Are you happy at work or is there something else you’d rather do, somewhere else you want to be? Does it still satisfy you professionally? Are you finding yourself enjoying what you do or do you find yourself putting up with things? What would be your outlook on your job if you only had 10 years left to live? These are questions that we don’t ask ourselves, but are situations that my patients have found themselves in.

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Palace of Care – Wellbeing Tips

Hi everyone,

I shared some wellbeing tips with my workmates and they produced a pdf file that you can download.

Guest Post by Liese Groot-Alberts

Liese is an experienced Palliative Care Educator, Mentor and Clinical Supervisor who has helped and inspired many people in New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and many other countries. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Liese present live in person at various conferences and workshops, which has always been a real treat. Liese has kindly shared some of her personal thoughts in the hope that they will help others during the trying times that we all find ourselves in. Thanks Liese!

 

The art of communicating compassion in PPE: Pantomime of Purposeful Expression.

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“ behind glass” by Marta Bevacqua, Paris

 

“Make your choices based on love, not fear” – Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

In my work as a mentor and clinical supervisor of healthcare staff, I am currently hearing expressions of grief, frustration, anxiety, concerns and sometimes a sense of powerlessness in this Covid-19 pandemic. Staff are talking about feeling clumsy and inadequate in their communication of compassionate care to patients through layers of PPE. This combined with a high-powered, stressful, anxious working environment makes it paramount for staff to commit to time for self-care and self-reflection, increasing their awareness of how they are in body, mind, heart and soul, in order to be able to practice compassionate care.

I repeatedly hear: “I don’t have time for self-care or reflection, I am too busy juggling work and home, I feel like I am running all the time.”

I totally agree, life before covid-19 was busy enough and now is for most – in essential services especially- even more pressured. However, I also would like to challenge your statement of “no time” with a simple exercise to do at work, that takes about 15 seconds, can reduce some stress and anxiety and be helpful in re-connecting you with your compassion.

Unless you are on your way to an emergency of course, then just take one deep breath and run!!! Continue reading

I think therefore I am? – A definition of Grace

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/144232185@N03/30117339256″>PARMIGIANINO,1534-35 – Deux Canéphores se donnant la Main (Louvre INV6466)

In healthcare it is important to set clear boundaries in order to care for yourself and your patients in a sustainable fashion. In the practice of palliative care, boundary setting is even more important, as the therapeutic relationship can be very intense and intimate at times. We have to keep in mind that this relationship will likely end soon, with the death of our patient. It can be a difficult balancing act; using your humanity to make important connections with another human being; while at the same time keeping professional distance to protect the both of you.

That being said, it is inevitable that there will be some cases which will hit you harder than others. When a deeper connection has been made, you will feel the loss and grief much more strongly. Informal reflection with your team members and professional supervision have an important role to play in keeping us palliative care providers safe to continue doing the important job that we have to do. We need to remind ourselves that this is a job that not everyone in healthcare can handle. That those of us who chose to work in palliative care, owe it to ourselves and our patients to look after ourselves. We are a precious resource and if we do not take care of ourselves, we will deny our patients and their families the difference that we can make in their lives, and deaths.

After almost ten years of working exclusively in full-time palliative care practice I would like to share a case that reminded me of just how human I am, and how much value I obtain from professional supervision and from sharing with my team members.

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Art therapy for the palliative care clinician

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I had wanted to learn to paint for many years, and finally found the time to take some classes during my research fellowship year. It was really good fun and I loved it. Unfortunately, my fellowship year soon finished and clinical commitments meant I could no longer attend the classes.

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Nevertheless, I decided that I would keep painting, once a week (usually on a Wednesday), just for me. At the end of a busy day, it’s often easier to just slump on the couch and watch some TV. I’ll be honest, sometimes the couch wins. However, I do manage to drag myself out of the house again most Wednesdays, get myself down to the studio for a couple of ours of what I fancifully call my ‘art therapy’ before bed. And when I do, I never regret it.

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As you can see, I’m just a beginner and still have a lot to learn about painting. But I love losing myself in the work, just thinking about form and colour – anything other than patients and families and suffering and medicine, or audits or guidelines or research or presentations. I also love heading out and painting outdoors when I can get away.

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If you also like painting, or any other form of art – please join us for #PallANZ tweet chat on the 29th, which will be on the topic of “palliative care and the arts”! You can find the details here.

Harassment in healthcare – What can palliative care learn from the RACS?

As many of you would know the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has recently released its expert advisory group Draft Report into discrimination, bullying and harassment in surgery.  The results of the report are confronting even if they are unfortunately not altogether surprising.

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New fellow survey

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(Image via wikipedia)

Are you a “new fellow”? Have you recently qualified (or about to qualify) as a palliative medicine specialist (FAChPM +/- FRACP)?

Transitioning from advanced training to consultant-hood can be a challenging time in one’s career. Help us understand how best to support you by completing this brief and anonymous survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NZ97VVL

Thank you!

Self-care: Is it selfish?

Did you work over the holiday break?

Unlike many times in the past – this year I didn’t work a shift on Christmas Eve; or Christmas day, or even New Years. I spent this time with my family. And I turned off my electronic gadgets (well, for the most part)!

I spent quiet time reading. How refreshing it was to have no agenda, and nothing that just had to be done. The only trouble was that, somehow, this felt quite indulgent.

After all, we are trained to care for others – but perhaps not so enlightened on the art of self-care. Is it selfish? Or does genuine care for others perhaps start with yourself? Continue reading