2016 reflections and and a some old wisdom for a new year!

Structure is Key

 

Structure is key,

Without out this we cannot be free,

 

From the ups and downs of life,

And the ability to live with a wife, or family,

 

As strife is inherent in all kinds of life,

But it need not cut you like a knife,

 

For when you have an “approach” and a plan,

Whether it be to hang and get a tan,

 

Or follow a career which makes you the man,

That you are seeking to be,

 

You just have to navigate the tides,

And not get lost at sea,
So hold a peace in your mind’s sight,

And let “structure” be the guiding light.

 

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Structure is the key to everything,

No matter how difficult and messy life seems,

There is always a way to handle the challenges peacefully and productively.

Recently I’ve been working in a new rotation called “General Medicine”, I’ve noticed that the same principles of stucture being the key applies here too. I turn up to work and there often seems to be a mountainous list of tasks to do. To get through seeing all the patients, organise consultations, and organise ward rounds with consultants to formulate solid patient management plans. Then on the tricky days I’m also on call, which means that I have to answer the pager which could be emergency patients that are referred, or ones who would benefit from another subspeciality’s input, and ward consults from other hospital teams.

It is the same when I am working in Emergency Medicine. I’ve learned how “structure” is essential to core business of an emergency physician who has to make some sense and bring order to evolving chaos. Here one strategy is going through the “board” (an electronic overview of all the patients in the department) and making sure there is a plan for each patient as well a strategy for staffing and supervision to handle the inevitible surge’s of patients (trauma’s, resucitations etc) that freqent the department.

 

But how about “life”?

Now when it comes to “life” – how does one structure this project? Perhaps the life arena is the hardest one to manage because it is so dynamic and multiple factors involved. Also there are pressing needs that trump any planning such as “getting food into the body”, “doing shopping”, “having rest”, or “spending time with one’s partner” who is otherwise is constantly waiting around for a life, just washing, cooking and cleaning. Perhaps managing the needs and goals of close loved ones (both family and friends) is the most challenging variable of managing “Life”.

We are not given much guidance on how to manage one’s life, or at least I wasn’t’, but what I’ve come to realise now, is that ironically doing less is the key to achieving more. This is easy to realise, but extremely hard to practice in a world where there seems to so many things that need to be done before we can sit in peace.

After working busy shifts in the hospital it is very easy to feel both depleated and defeated. In recent months, and years, I have found that by giving it “your all” to countless patients and their families, and despite simultaneously trying to be the best support senior, junior and other staff and colleagues, one can still easily leave work feeling that there was more that you could have done. This is not only heart breaking, but it is counter productive, because it leaves one ill equipped to then to come home and pick up the pieces of the most important project of all “life”.

As we head into the new year, at challenging time in my life when facing a fellowship exam is on the cards in addition to the usual mix of dream plans, responsibilities and goals – I take heart in reminding myself that “structure” is the key. I also look forward to the year ahead with a motto that I’ve always kept close to my heart – which is to give out what I would hope to get back, after all they say that “the universe is kind to the kindhearted”, and this has proved to be a personal truth that I am very, very grateful for.

Best of luck for your new year! May all you move one step closer to your most heartfelt wishes, hopes and dreams.

See you on the other side 🙂

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Motivational talk on specialist training and Emergency Medicine

Last month I had the pleasure of talking with the UOW 2015 graduating medical at their “welcome to the real world” workshop lecture series. It was a real honour to be invited to speak about Emergency Medicine with this group of future doctors.

I decided to offer some reflections about my own diverse journey which has spanned several countries and a few different disciplines including surgery (which I embarked on many years ago), research (which led to a PhD that was complted this year) and emergency medicine (which I am currently in the process of completing).

2. My journey

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Some of the highlights of the talk for me was to be able to use a bit of simulation and creative to highlight through direct experience what some of the key elements of Emergency Medicine include. To this end I used a bit of shaking and laughter yoga, an audience surprise, and finally a short guided meditaiton to let the group exeprience the calm within the storm. I was lucky this was such a willing audience.

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The actual talk was a good chance to highlight the importance of knowing onself when chosing a medical speciality, as well as knowing what that speciality is about, and understanding what the job entails; both positives and negatives. For me the key reasons to chose a speciality is related to inspiration, and taking a path towards following an inner dream. Mentorship is key for this long journey, and I am every grateful to have had many great mentors along the way.

1. Why we chose a career path

The talk ended with a guitar peformance of a song I wrote whilst doing field work for my PhD titled Peaceful Revolution. It’s an interesting song about some of the wisdom I learned in the villages of rural Sri Lanka. Part of the song is about how there seems to be much more harmony between nature and human existing in the rural areas, and in the cities where I’ve spent most of my life it is easy to have so much in material wealth, but at the same time so easy to forget to touch the hearts of others.

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The gratitude List

There are always so many people to thank for every talk I give. First and foremost I am grateful to my many wonderful mentors – without whom a talk of this nature would not be possible. Then there was the audience, not only for being a kind and generous audience, but also for participating with some of the off-the-beaten-track interactions that I had schemed into this particular talk. Thanks also to the new graduates;- Dr Hayley Dyke who helped me out with being an improptu back up guitarist for the performance, and of course to the lovely Dr Beatrice Dowsett, a member of the class and workshop organiser who invited me to speak. Bea is such amazing person, talented both within and outside the medical arena. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her at the local hospital acting/film/drama forum created by Dr Tony Chu with the help of other keen artistic doctors at Wollongong Hospital, who meet up monthly for the what we call Fry Day Drama (read more to find out).

I am also very thankful for the clinical team of which I am part of at at the Wollongong hospital, for supporting me to get across to the university campus to deliver the talk during a busy – (Thanks Dr Venita Visvalingam, my supervising Consultant Physician and Dr Annie McKean our hard working Intern!).

Thanks to Dr Nemeshi Fernando who was one of class who gave me some feedback (which I put on my You Tube channel) about the talk. It’s always wondeful to get nice feedback from the audience, and to know that your message is understood.

But finally – Congratulations to the UOW 2015 class – Well done – You made it!!

and… “welcome to the real world!”

Extra web-links

Please leave your “feedback” below:-

I have included the entire talk above, with some additional slides that include a few medical related poems that I once submitted to an Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) conference.

If you are reading this and attended the talk, please leave your feedback in the comments section below. I would love to know what was helpful and what resonated most with you as I endeavour to develop this talk further in the future and your feedback is warmly appreciated. 🙂