Doctors: 10 lessons from the humble bumblebee

Doctors: 10 lessons from the humble bumblebee

Practice medicine like the bumblebee.

We also know the basics of the beehive containing a single queen bee, hundreds of worker bees, and several hundred to several thousand drones with their only function is to mate with the queen (and after they perform this function they die!), each with their own degree of specialization and place in the honeybee society. However, there is a great deal of information and advice we can learn from bees.

This article will discuss a 10 life lessons to be learned from the humble bumblebee.


The honeybee is the most well studied insect. There are lessons, which include molecular biology, economics of beekeeping and honey creation, the social life of the bee, architecture of the perfect hexagonal cell, and from the medical standpoint, the study of allergic reactions.

Lesson 1. Bees are excellent communicators and always stay in touch with their hives when they go out looking for food. They keep the entire group in the loop; any vital tips like where vast amounts of pollen can be found are relayed to other members. Every business and personal relationship can benefit from such effective communication where there no secrets kept. In medicine we need to strive for a transparency in all that we do. We can have no secrets from our staff or from our patients.

Lesson 2. Bees are quick learners and are observant in choosing the kind of flowers that give them good rewards but can as easily discard that don’t yield the right kind of pollen. Doctors also need to be observant and quickly learn which procedures offer the most return on the investment and discard the others. This also applies to good payors and those that don’t pay the appropriate amount for our services or are routinely tardy in their reimbursement policies.

Lesson 3. Bees are team players as they work for each other. They work together in large groups; if an individual or a part of the group fails, other members make up of for it. That’s why productivity never suffers. That’s why cross training is important and it is necessary for everyone in the office to be able to step up to the plate and fill in for other team members who are not available to perform their duties.

Lesson 4. Bees stick to tasks assigned to them and complete them to the best of their abilities. There is a defined hierarchy; male bees mate, worker bees build hives etc. It is nice to know when someone is given a task that the action is completed without having to check on the staff member to see if it is done. Otherwise doctors and office managers function as baby sitters and we spend our energies checking up on our staff. This leads to friction and inefficiency.

Lesson 5. Bees make multi-utility products.  Besides honey that has its numerous uses, their wax is used in cosmetics, their hives with perfect hexagonal cells are architects’ inspiration. As a medical practice your goal should be to create services that have relevance in many fields. For example if you are any physician, you might talk to patients about nutrition, exercise and smoking cessation.

Lesson 6. Bees are highly adaptable to drastic changes in their surroundings and can get back to their jobs instantly. In 2005, I was impacted by hurricane Katrina, which devastated my city and my practice. Twelve weeks after the hurricane, I had more pharmaceutical representatives visiting my practice than patients. I had adapt to a changing medical environment and start my practice all over from literal ground zero.

Lesson 7. Bees are ever evolving. There have been natural disasters and climate changes, but bees have kept on growing, evolving and working. Doctors need to be always learning and modifying how they practice. They cannot continue with the same skills that they learned in medical school or training. However, on caveat, we need to be sure that we don’t depend too heavily on technology for diagnosis of medical conditions. We still need to listen to our patients.

Lesson 8. For bees, experience counts. Young bees aren’t sent out hunting for food, just like young interns should not be performing major surgery without monitors and mentors guiding them to enhance their skills.

Lesson 9. Bees have a strong leader in their queen. Her mere presence helps them function brilliantly, while they are in disarray in the absence of the queen. Every practice and team needs a strong leader. A mission statement that serves as the roadmap for the practice should also accompany this.

Lesson 10. Bees are known to have a strong sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic. Your practice has to have a work ethic that the patient comes first and all other functions are subservient to this objective.

Bottom line. Bees offer many such precious lessons. We have believed that it was impossible for bees to fly from an aerodynamic perspective since their bodies are so large in comparison to their wingspan. However, we know they can fly and do much more. We need to think about how doctors and their staff should emulate the beautiful bee.

Neil Baum is a urologist at Touro Infirmary and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practices: Ethically, Effectively, Economically. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Neil Baum, MDor on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • ninguem

    Are these charismatic Rwandan bees pollinating the flowers
    bordering the Starbuck’s patio where Malcolm Gladwell is having an espresso with his pastry from Cheesecake Factory?

  • EmilyAnon

    These life lessons can be applied to the layperson as well as medical people. As for the humble bees, isn’t nature wonderful.

  • Dr. Drake Ramoray
    • ninguem

      Oh, thanks, now I need eye bleach.

Most Popular