7 habits of successful doctors

By Physician Sense, for MDLinx
Published January 7, 2019

Key Takeaways

Unfortunately, the modern pharmaceutical industry has yet to come up with a drug that’s a self-improvement panacea. Even in 2019 we still need to do the work of creating and sticking to sustainable habits that can help us become successful. But, sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to start. As you’re reviewing your New Year’s resolutions, try developing these 7 habits for successful doctors.

Be punctual

We live in the instant era. Nearly every piece of information we could ever want is a few quick taps away on an internet-connected device. As a result, people have grown increasingly impatient, with attention spans that are now shorter than those of goldfish.

In comparison, our lives — including the lives of doctors — have grown increasingly hectic. Think of how cluttered your schedule is with meetings, tasks like EHRs and familial obligations. Your time is more in demand than ever.

The same is true of your patients. They don’t like waiting, and odds are, they have somewhere else to be. It’s time to make punctuality a priority in 2019. Take advantage of your smartphone’s reminder and calendar alert functions. If that doesn’t work, get someone on your team to keep you moving from patient to patient in a timely manner.

Communicate clearly

Chances are, you didn’t get into medicine because of your communication skills. But communication is at the heart of what every doctor does. Whether it’s coordinating with a team of caregivers, or instructing a patient on home care, you need to be able to articulate your desires clearly. And since everyone is so crunched for time, you need to do it succinctly.

If you’re communicating via email, bulleted lists are easily digestible. If you’re texting, clarity is key. Make sure what you’re saying actually makes sense before you hit send — especially if you’re using voice-to-text. For face-to-face communication, ask questions to make sure the person you’re speaking to understands you. Don’t assume that they do because they’re nodding their head.

Establish boundaries

Smartphones have eroded the traditional separation between work and personal life. And unfortunately for you, people never stop doing dumb things to put themselves in your office or the hospital. With these two facts in mind, you need to be even more protective of your down time. You need this time to recharge so that you can be more effective and more successful in your practice.

Not on call? Then put the smartphone in another room when you go to bed. On vacation? Stop checking work email. Go somewhere where there’s no reception if you have to. At your daughter’s recital? Then be at your daughter’s recital, not thinking about the inexperienced intern working with you.

Make rest and recovery a priority

Research has shown that what sets humans apart in earth’s biome is our ability to run. We evolved to endure, running long distances and coordinating with teams to bring home dinner, according to one common evolutionary hypothesis. 

But even elite endurance athletes need to rest and recover. This is also true of the superhuman species, Physicianus Erectus. Despite your never-show-weakness training, you need to make recovery a priority in 2019, or you’re likely to become another burnout statistic.

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