Empowering solutions to physicians’ frustrations, burnout, and healthcare inefficiencies
byDr Pietro Emanuele Garbelli
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Frustrations Can Either Make or Break You
By the time I turned eighteen, I was seriously considering medicine as my preferred career choice. It was so much so that if anyone asked me “What do you want to do in life?” my answer became invariably, “I want to be a doctor!”
It had taken me a lot of thinking and ruling out several other career options bit by bit. So you can imagine my mix of surprise, disappointment, and shock when I heard the following remark: “If you want my advice, don’t go to medical school. Being a doctor has become very difficult and frustrating nowadays. And as I don’t expect things changing anytime soon, I would not wish that upon anyone. But”— as he noticed the uncomfortable expression building on my face—“if you have already made up your mind, then go ahead and become a good doctor. We always need those, and in the right circumstances, it is the most beautiful profession in the world!”
This was the unsolicited advice I was given by the doctor assessing my fitness for military service at age eighteen. He told me this as soon as he found out that I was considering applying to study medicine once graduating from high school. But by then, I had become used to hearing sentences like this from most of the doctors I encountered.
Not all of them tried to discourage me from studying medicine, but with few exceptions, most of them were visibly frustrated. And in some cases, they appeared disillusioned and bitter; the term burnout wasn’t yet popular back then. As soon as they heard that I was contemplating becoming a doctor, they showed their interest, shared a piece of their mind, and often also openly shared some of their frustrations about the profession with a potential, future colleague.
In all honesty, back then, those words didn’t really impact my decision. Trying to decide what to do with my life was my only concern. So I paid little attention to other people’s professional frustrations, or at least I did not take those into account when weighing the pros and cons of different career choices. I assumed those frustrations were brought about by personal or local circumstances rather than a problem affecting the whole profession.
I’ve always listened to people’s descriptions of lifelong vocations with a mix of envy and inadequacy. I remember playing the game Operation as a kid and being curious whenever visiting my pediatrician/family doctor’s office, the biochemical analysis laboratory, or occasionally the hospital. But if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have probably answered “an inventor,” “a dancer,” or “a musician” rather than “a doctor.” The idea of studying medicine came to my mind much later because of a series of events.
When I was sixteen years old, on a Sunday morning, while I was in church with my family, I suddenly experienced a knife-like pain in my chest, like a stabbing, which lasted only a few seconds. I coughed a couple of times, then the pain stopped, leaving me puzzled about what just happened. Obviously, given the circumstances, my first thought was that God was sending me a signal. He was probably punishing me for being gay (not that I had done anything about it, quite the opposite). But the guilt I was living with, cleverly corroborated by the church, had made me see the world through shame-tainted glasses.
The following day, at high school, I realized something was wrong, during my physical education class. I could feel something hitting against the inner side of my chest wall each time I jumped. From my knowledge of biology, I was pretty convinced it must have been my lung bouncing inside my chest, but I had no idea why. I went to my family doctor the next day, and he organized an X-ray of my chest, which confirmed that my lung had partially deflated and it was floppily bouncing around inside my chest. I learned that the condition was named pneumothorax, and I was immediately held in the hospital and admitted to a surgical ward.
This was the first time I spent time in the hospital as an inpatient. I had a thick plastic tube inserted in my chest, connected to a big glass bottle half filled with water. I carried it around inside an old, rusty metal trolley with two wheels, one leg, and a long handle. I was told to be careful not to tip it over; otherwise, air would have leaked back into my chest, deflating the lung again.
But despite the wonky trolley and the long piping, I got so bored of staying in one room that I started wondering the whole hospital, particularly in the evenings. After dinner was served and all the visitors had left, the night shifts started. The squeaky and oddlooking apparatus I was dragging with me in the corridors attracted the attention of other wanderers and gave me a way to start many conversations. After several days, the air stopped escaping my lung, the drain stopped bubbling, and it was removed. And I was sent home.
Unfortunately, over the following few months, the same problem reoccurred twice. I ended up being admitted again, having more drains inserted, and I was transferred to a bigger hospital for an attempt to prevent further episodes by performing surgery. Between hospital admissions and outpatient appointments for scans and follow-ups, I ended up having an in-depth, first-hand experience of hospitals.
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About the Book
Doctors leaving the medical profession is a global problem that can no longer be ignored. In this ground-breaking book, you’ll be taken on a journey to unveil many common sources of physicians’ frustrations and discover how to:
• Address the causes and effects of burnout and stress. • Empower doctors to use their voices as vital feedback. • Boost engagement, productivity, and retention. • Mindfully collaborate with healthcare stakeholders. • Influence fit-for-purpose technology solutions. • Enhance workplace experience and wellbeing. • Purposefully transform the future of healthcare.
The Doctor’s Voice is a unique and inspiring vade mecum for medical students, junior doctors, and consultants to help them develop their communication, leadership, and self-governance skills. It is a blueprint for building engagement and trust across the spectrum of stakeholders for the purpose of creating thriving healthcare. This book is a window into the endless opportunities arising from unleashing the priceless value of what doctors have to give.
About the Author
Dr Pietro Emanuele Garbelli is a specialist in Acute Internal Medicine, a Clinical Director, and a Thriving Healthcare Consultant. Having witnessed and experienced inefficiencies, frustrations and struggles as a patient, a relative and a provider, he uses the lessons learned as a powerful catalyst to provide medical thought leadership. By fostering a successful collaboration between empowered physicians and healthcare stakeholders, he aims to contribute towards creating high-quality and sustainable healthcare. https://DrGarbelli.com