Should physicians meditate?

7 things I do differently since I started daily meditation 1 year ago

For 10 years I wondered if I could be the meditating type. Each time I sat still to take some deep breaths I was pretty easily distracted, felt like I was wasting time or fell asleep.

Until a year ago, I had never tried it first thing in the morning. It had never occurred to me because I would think, “My eyes have been shut for the past 6-7 hours, why would I do it for another 5 minutes?”

You can see my entire routine in a post I wrote a few months ago here:

Wellness Week – How I put my health first

I wanted to give some specific changes I have seen in my life after adding meditation to my daily routine over the past year. While I do feel “better”, that is not the kind of specific feedback the physicians that I know like to hear after a modification. As a radiologist, my referring surgeons seem to want to know how things look after the surgery. None of my reports just say “better.”

So here it is, the 7 things that have changed as a result of a 30 minute daily morning ritual:

1. I have read more books. I read biographies, marketing, sales, technology, leadership, entrepreneurship and fiction; 45 books this year on my Kindle. Also I kept up with monthly Harvard Business Review monthly publication as well my radiology journals. As a physician that wanted to learn more about business, this type of daily dedicated reading was pretty awesome.

2. I am better teacher to my residents. I started asking the residents describe the steps of the procedure before we see the patient. I have them discuss every step of the consent, positioning, prep, anesthesia and sampling before an ultrasound guided biopsy. This 3-4 minute investment in time has paid off with much smoother procedures and this type of visualization allows them to practice twice for each procedure. Once with me and words and once with the patient. If it is good enough for Phil Jackson and the Bulls, it is good enough for me.

3. I can better adapt to unforeseen challenges. In addition to my radiology interpretive duties, I am also the head of the diagnostic division. I have over 50 technologists at 5 locations and we deliver over 100,000 x-rays per year. Despite engaged leadership and well thought operating procedures, things happen: maintenance, personnel, safety, supply and customer service. There are emails, phone calls and knocks on my door with less than ideal news. Over the past 12 months, I have been able to more calmly prioritize the true emergencies and separate them from the enormous inconveniences. I have been able to better delegate important tasks to others to maintain perspective. Most importantly, I am very rarely reactive.

4. I am a more relaxed driver. Granted I spent most of my twenties in Los Angeles and DC. Anything after that is significantly less hectic. With that, there are driving frustrations everywhere and they bother me less.

5. I can deliver bad news to patients better.  There are times that the news we convey to other human beings is unthinkable to our non-medical friends. I can take a split second before opening the door and think, “OK, this is terrible, but if my mom was about to get this news, how would I hope it played out.”

6.  I eat better. Many busy people, physicians included, wait until they are hungry before choosing their food. I definitely have a schedule for eating to include 100 calorie snacks at 10am, 2 and 4 (I found 100 calorie bars on Amazon that I like and I buy them a case at a time and keep a few in my white coat. Two apples are included each day too.) I don’t think I needed to meditate per se to do this, but I didn’t do this before and possibly it is a result of my overall commitment to wellbeing.

7. I answer the phone nicer at work. This is a weird one, I know. I took a step back and thought that yes, the only time the phone rings is when there is bad news or someone needs something, but despite my grouchiest greeting, it still rang again and again. So, somehow in the past 12 months, I have learned to accept the ringing phone as a reminder. A reminder, and maybe a challenge, that despite whatever is said on the other end of that device I can handle it. Calmly.

I’d love to hear your comments. Have you tried to meditate? Have you had any struggles?

Again, here is the link to my daily routine: Wellness Week


Mind Over Medicine.

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