What Approaches Help Maintain Resilience During Challenging Times in a Medical Career?

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    Doctors Magazine

    What Approaches Help Maintain Resilience During Challenging Times in a Medical Career?

    In the face of adversity, medical professionals often draw on unique strategies to maintain their resilience. We've gathered seven perspectives, including those of surgeons and a naturopathic doctor, to share their personal approaches. From harnessing an artistic background for balance to adopting a patient-centered approach, these insights offer a glimpse into the resilience of those in the medical field.

    • Harness Artistic Background for Balance
    • Adapt and Repurpose Emotions
    • Practice Mindfulness and Holistic Self-Care
    • Control Mental Health with Mid-Day Meditations
    • Navigate Trauma with Resilience
    • Set Realistic Expectations
    • Adopt a Patient-Centered Approach

    Harness Artistic Background for Balance

    Leveraging my artistic background to find balance and creativity has really helped during challenging times. For instance, when I face particularly tough surgical cases, I model the case with sculpting or drawing. This helps me view challenges as creative problems to solve, enhancing my focus and reducing stress. Additionally, practicing mindfulness through activities like hiking or meditating has been invaluable. These moments of calm allow me to return to my work with renewed energy and perspective, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

    David Hill, MD
    David Hill, MDPlastic Surgeon & Medical Director, Fulcrum Aesthetics & Surgery

    Adapt and Repurpose Emotions

    As a cardiothoracic surgeon, I was prepared to perform the elective heart valve replacement when I suddenly was called to perform an urgent heart surgery. To save both lives, many times I had to swiftly adapt and prioritize the emergency, demonstrating flexibility and quick decision-making under pressure. I used a technique that I call "Abandon the Plan." When we cling too tightly to a plan, we risk missing the potential opportunities that arise from the unexpected, the uncharted, and the unforeseen situations. This scenario underscores the importance of being prepared for the unexpected and making critical adjustments to plans when necessary.

    At the same time, I maintain compassion, love, and care for the patients. I do this by using a model that I call "Flip Your Feelings"—transforming or rechanneling negative emotions into positive ones. The method turns into more productive or constructive feelings. This technique helps in managing emotional responses to various situations. It's a method of emotional regulation and self-control that can lead to improved mental health, better relationships, and more effective responses to challenges and adversity in the medical career.

    Alexandra Kharazi
    Alexandra KharaziCardiothoracic Surgeon, Southern California Surgical

    Practice Mindfulness and Holistic Self-Care

    One approach I've taken to stay resilient during particularly challenging times in my medical career is embracing the practice of mindfulness and holistic self-care.

    As a naturopathic doctor and holistic fertility expert, I understand the importance of addressing not just the physical, but also the emotional and mental aspects of health. When faced with overwhelming situations, whether it's managing complex fertility cases, dealing with personal health challenges, or experiencing the emotional weight of my patients' struggles, I find solace in mindfulness techniques. These practices help me stay grounded, present, and focused, allowing me to handle stress more effectively.

    I dedicate time each day to mindfulness meditation. This practice helps me clear my mind, reduce anxiety, and maintain a sense of balance. By focusing on the present moment and acknowledging my thoughts and feelings without judgment, I can approach each challenge with a clearer, more composed mindset.

    In addition to mindfulness, I prioritize holistic self-care routines that nourish my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Regular exercise, nutrient-dense eating, and ensuring I get adequate rest are non-negotiable aspects of my routine. I also make time for activities that bring me joy and relaxation, such as spending quality time with my family, engaging in hobbies, and connecting with nature.

    By integrating mindfulness and holistic self-care into my daily life, I can recharge and maintain the resilience needed to navigate the demands of my medical career. This comprehensive approach not only supports my well-being but also enhances my ability to provide compassionate and effective care to my patients. It’s a reminder that taking care of myself is essential to being fully present and supportive for those I help on their fertility journey.

    Rosia ParrishNaturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Wellness Center of Boulder

    Control Mental Health with Mid-Day Meditations

    I have realized that there is no one more responsible for your mental health than yourself. Because of that, I have taken control over how I stay sane in the crazy world of healthcare. Mid-day meditations are so powerful in helping manage stress during the day. It's the small, little meditations throughout the day that allow me to consistently show up and be present at my job without burning out.

    Nam Tran
    Nam TranPodiatrist / Foot and Ankle Surgeon, Synergy Foot and Ankle

    Navigate Trauma with Resilience


    Resiliency is a similar to a muscle that needs consistency and skill to utilize. This current year my internal peace and strength was tested more than ever. My colleague and friend was brutally murdered. An employee with almost 2 decades dedicated to our organization. From the moment I was alerted by my direct leadership to current day , I was provided true grace and love in the delivery of such horrific information. My resiliency was challenged to its limits, working through what felt like a nightmare. Doctors, nurses, staff all shared a common bond, an internal deep sadness that has joined us in a trauma that we will forever share. During those first few days where patients and their needs seemed so distant to what I was experiencing, resilience was what got me through. I continue to mourn for my former coworker and will forever be changed from that awful day. But the action of moving through catastrophic events offers hope to me that one day my reflection of my dear friend will be less sadness and more of the good times. It is only through resilience and strength that this can and will be achieved.

    Brooke Edell
    Brooke EdellPediatric Nurse Case Manager

    Set Realistic Expectations

    For me, it's all about expectations. As physicians, we signed up to take care of people—and people are complicated. Things rarely play out like the books say they're supposed to. Accepting this rather than fighting it saves a lot of frustration and angst—and allows us to approach each situation with compassion and curiosity.

    Courtney Younglove
    Courtney YoungloveFounder/Medical Director, Heartland Weight Loss

    Adopt a Patient-Centered Approach

    I focus on a patient-centered approach to stay resilient during difficult times in my medical career. This involves actively and patiently listening to patients' concerns and providing them with clear, detailed information to manage expectations and build trust. Continuous learning and adaptation ensure I stay updated with the latest techniques, improving patient outcomes and maintaining the relevance of my medical and surgical practice. Additionally, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is critical for managing stress and sustaining high performance in my medical career. This holistic approach helps me navigate problems effectively, ensuring consistent, high-quality patient care.

    Dr. Mehmet Demircioglu
    Dr. Mehmet DemirciogluHair Transplant Surgeon, Diamond Hair Clinic