Like it or not, your life carries a message. Your vocation is an expression of that message. Often your life message is inadvertently preached without much thought from you. “He’s really nice.” “She’s a good doctor, but with a difficult personality.” “She always brings a lot of joy and cheer.” “He’s funny, but don’t ever work with him.” “He really cares for his patients.” “She is pedantic and obsessive about patient safety.” You know what I mean. Your life message. Your persona. The kind of effect you have on others. These subliminal life messages are essentially what you value most that others read through your behaviour. They’re the essence and the values that you carry to your workplaces and at home.
What if you could intentionally craft your life message? What if you could choose to design a message that you can communicate to those around you, those you work with and those who you care for? What if you can plan it out in the next few days, and make it your goal to carry this message throughout this year? What if at the end of the year you can look back and say that you have been successful in delivering that message?
I have been chewing on this for a bit. If I wanted to distill my life message and the values which I abide by at work, it would be these 3: Compassion, Competence and Collaboration. These are my healthcare values:
There is no doubt that at the heart of Medicine and Surgery is care and compassion for another human being. You cannot be a doctor without compassion for your patients. This is the essence of being a surgeon. Care and compassion. The moment we care more about the Business of Medicine, we need to step away and take a break. It’s about the patient. First and always. If there is one thing I want my patients and colleagues to remember of me, it would be that I was a compassionate surgeon who placed my patients as supreme priority.
Compassion alone does not make you a surgeon. You need competence. You need to be well trained. You need to be a master at your craft. You do not need to be the best surgeon in the world, but you need to be the best surgeon you can be for your patient today. You need to be able to say that you have done all you can to train yourself so you can deliver the best and safest care for the patient in front of you. Real competence takes many years of specialist training, examinations, audit, reviews, retraining. Real competence require daily reflection. Competence is a gift our patients deserve.
Good doctors may work alone, but great doctors work in a team. The great surgeons know that they cannot do anything worthwhile on their own. Great care is delivered by a team. I deliver my best care when I work in harmony with other specialists. We amplify and catalyse each other’s good work when we work well as a team. Our patients deserve that.
Those are the three values that I believe are the basic building blocks of good healthcare. Those are the 3 key messages I want my work to preach. Those are the essence of what I want to be as a surgeon and what I hope healthcare would look like when delivered well.
What about you? What other values would you add to healthcare delivery? What kind of a life message would you want to craft for yourself?