“Doctors’ Day” is officially March 30th each year. It is out there with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, and Nurse’s Day (and Week). Is it an actual holiday or a hashtag social media day?
It is an official holiday and has been happening longer than I have been a doctor. The US Congress passed a resolution in 1990, and the first President Bush signed a law on Oct 30, 1990, designating Doctors’ Day as a national holiday to be celebrated every March 30th. So, it predated social media! The mail still runs, and we always must go to work, but we have some recognition on this holiday. On every March 30th, patients and communities should celebrate the contributions of physicians. However, it is more often noted by health systems and societies than by individual patients. We get messages, small gifts, and banners on the system website.
The first Doctors’ Day was in late March 1933 in Georgia. Cards were sent to physicians, and their families and flowers were placed on deceased physician graves. Thank you, Georgia, for leading the way to recognize the work done by physicians. Subsequently, medical associations started doing the same.
What would you as a physician want to get out of Doctors’ Day? Should it be like your birthday, where you are celebrated, feel joy, and make connections? Should you feel a sense of recognition and respect? Would you want it to be a day when everything goes smoothly?
Coincidentally, I felt burned out in my career when we were focusing on establishing ourselves as a patient-centered medical home (PCMH). I often thought we also needed to be doctor-centered. “What about me?” “Who or What supports me?” I questioned if it could be equally about the patient and me?
Some individuals not in medicine may think that every day is Doctor’s Day. Don’t we make the big bucks? Aren’t we in charge? Don’t we always get what we want?” Ha-Ha! If you ask many doctors about these beliefs, they will remove this façade. Many healthcare providers are not aware of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt some doctors must accumulate to go through many years of training and the large loan payment they pay each month. They may not understand the oversight we are under and that insurance companies and administration have more control of decisions than we often do.
How can we get that sense of autonomy and flexibility that we want?
If we feel that recognition and respect, could we show up better to our jobs, be well, listen to our patients more, and have better outcomes? When we do not feel like we can fulfill our purpose in our job, it is easy to be disengaged, cynical and ineffective. We are often just tired.
If you want to change this narrative, consider using a strategy called Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to think about what is going well in your job to expand on that. In doing this, you could create a job environment where you feel fulfilled and recognized for your contributions every day.
Use the AI 5-D framework:
1. DEFINE: What do you want in your job? What do you need to feel supported as a doctor? Be specific about what you want to focus on for this process.
2. DISCOVER: Start with what is going well now and what has been an area of success in the past. Focus on the positive and figure out how to build on that. What strengths or values can you draw on, and how does this connect to your bigger purpose? If you had three wishes to create the perfect job situation, what would you want?
3. DREAM: If anything were possible, what would your ideal job situation look like? What creates energy for you? What might be? What would help you feel like it is Doctors’ Day all the time?
4. DESIGN: For this, develop a detailed plan for what might be. What resources are available to you? Brainstorm and draw a blueprint. Create options to overcome obstacles and make commitments to try out the design.
5. DELIVER: Here, you will enact the plans you have created. Set and check off goals with a tiny step after the next. This fifth D is sometimes also called Destiny. When this is completed, you can have what you came to medicine for.
This March 30th, as your contributions as a Woman in a White Coat, are recognized, spend some time reflecting on how you can create the scenario where you feel like every day you work in this position is a day that you can celebrate. I honor you, my sisters in medicine, and the work you do daily.
Marion Mull McCrary MD FACP is a practicing primary care general internist in North Carolina. She works with both physicians and non-physicians as a certified integrative health and wellness coach. She is also a Women in White Coats Writers Fellow and Podcast Co-Host. Her website is http://www.marion-wellness.com, and she can be followed on Instagram and Facebook at marionmccrarywellness.