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From Dream to Reality

Feb 26, 2024

That was it. Becoming an attending physician – finally. I thought I was at the end of the rite of passage. I was excited to be at the end of my training and into a new role, to be fully responsible for my patients. My retired physician parents both enjoyed their work. Even though they never forced me into medicine, their everyday life certainly influenced my decision in career.

The excitement gradually went away. Soon I found myself immersed in charting. Charting after hours, sometimes in the weekends. The time spent in charting and in other paperwork far exceeded the time spent in patient interaction. Before I knew it, I just wanted to survive and get by another day at work.

Seeing patients was no longer fulfilling. It was more just like a responsibility. If the patient had more questions, that was viewed as more time I had to stay behind to do patient documentation.

Working became a burden. Although it provided me with financial stability, it also added to my stress, my frustration, and my anger. Not to mention feeling adequate. There was no time to be a physician and also be a good mom or wife. I felt trapped because I did not think part-time work was a feasible option. I felt even more helpless because the job I envisioned was not the same as what I was experiencing.

Going home at a decent hour with all my work done seemed to be a far-fetched dream, so far that I stopped dreaming about. It would be nice to go home by 7 pm with all my work done.

I had this dream of going home on time and did not think in a thousand years I would be able to do it – unless I quit my job or somehow got a part-time job. Then I worked with my coach on this. To my surprise, the first thing we worked on was not the technique in patient charting. It was about my why.

Why did I want to go home on time? There were many thoughts. I did not sign up to be a charting machine after hours. I did not choose to see so many patients. I thought it was ridiculous to have to chart and do paperwork for another 4 hours after working for 9-10 hours. The ultimate reason was that I wanted to go home and spend time with my family. Quality time. To spend with my kids, to teach them and to connect with them.

My coach then asked me what would be an ideal time to go home from work, not what I thought would be possible. I really had to let myself imagine. To imagine that it would be possible to go home around 5 pm. It felt like a nice dream at that time. A dream that would never come true if I stayed at my job. I was encouraged to set that as my long-term goal. In the short-term, more immediate goal, I set the initial goal to go home before 7 pm with all my work done.

To take my dream a little further, my coach asked me how I would feel if I could go home on time. It was content and grateful for me. She also asked what emotions would drive me to be more efficient at work. Certainly not stress, anger or frustration. It was mainly focus and determination.

I reminded myself throughout the day the ultimate reason to go home on time. I also reminded myself the immediate goal time to have my work done. Gradually, I was consistently going home before 7 pm. Then 6:30 pm. Within 3 months, I was going home before 5:30 pm with all my work done – seeing the same average number of patients all that time. I now go home by 5 pm consistently. I turned the seemingly impossible dream into my reality.

Being where I am at, I cannot imagine myself going back to where I was. My new reality has become my identity. I am the full-time physician who is leaving work on time, so that I can spend more time with my family.

Sometimes our dream seems to be so unrealistic that we avoid dreaming it, because we do not want the disappointment of not achieving it. To make your dream into reality, you first have to dream about it. Let yourself dream big. When you dream about it, do not worry about the how yet. Believe that you can achieve that dream somehow. You may have to try many different things, and if you have enough faith that you can achieve it, you will. When you believe it is possible to achieve your goal, you will be motivated to explore different ways to achieve it. That is how things are invented, new methods are discovered and new normal is established. Let us work toward making our dream into reality!

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