A New Year – A New You?

11 Jan 2018
By Susan C. Pitt, MD, MPHS

Every year close to half of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. They commit to losing weight, eating healthy, exercising more, going to bed earlier, and on and on. Many of these types of resolutions revolve around improving health and wellness. As surgeons and as women, we surely benefit from these types of resolutions. But we should also ask ourselves, what resolutions can I make at work? So you’re probably asking, “What do you mean, ‘work resolutions’?”

In my mind, work resolutions can come in many forms. Some work resolutions may lead to improved wellness by creating time for activities outside of work, like exercise or travel. Perhaps you could master a few shortcuts within the electronic health record to speed up orders and documentation. Maybe you could fully plan your week to take advantage of small periods of down time, thereby improving productivity. Or maybe you could finally master email management, so email doesn’t take over your life (ughh!).

Your work resolutions could also involve incorporating small efforts towards wellness into your daily activities that may increase your productivity. Could you meditate at lunch? Take the stairs every day? Or do push-ups and wall sits between cases? You could download an app with a short workout that you do once or twice a day between meetings. I’ve been enjoying my morning and afternoon 7-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts so far. Can you say, “burpees and mountain climbers?”

Other types of work resolutions may involve patient care. You could resolve to improve patient communication or education by making any number of interventions, such as adding a new pamphlet in clinic or learning the teach back technique. You could even make a concerted effort to listen better. I know I’m frequently distracted by noises or other thoughts when I’m in clinic. Alternatively, you could resolve to trying make each of your patients laugh on rounds. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

Work resolutions could also involve learning or research. Perhaps you would like to read more or write more manuscripts. Maybe you would like to review articles in a timelier manner. Hopefully, by now, you can see the endless possibilities for resolutions in all facets of work and are encouraged to try incorporating one or several into your new year.

We all know that not all resolutions are successful, but we can help ourselves out. According to experts in the field, to help make your resolutions a reality, consider using these strategies:

  • Make the resolution specific (i.e., ‘I will finish my charts within 24 hours of clinic,’ instead of ‘I will finish my charting sooner.’)
  • Make the resolution realistic (i.e., Don’t resolve to read one surgical text each month when you only read one textbook last year.)
  • Have a strategy and a metric for evaluating your success (i.e., Keep track of every time your patient laughs on rounds and check your progress on Fridays.)

Ultimately, the resolution also needs to be important to you, your work, and/or your patients. Sharing the resolution with a friend or colleague may also keep you accountable and contribute to your success.

In this New Year, whether you pursue a resolution or not, consider incorporating strategies for building resilience and satisfaction at work, improving your wellness, and decreasing your risk for burnout.

Susan C. Pitt, MD, MPHS is an Assistant Professor of Endocrine Surgery at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Pitt is a health services researcher focused on reducing unnecessary surgical care and overtreatment. While she always strives to eat healthier, exercise more, and go to sleep earlier, Dr. Pitt’s “work resolutions” involve implementing strategies to make more space for her research and better manage her energy. She is looking forward to the challenge.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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