There comes a time in a doctor’s medical career when the demands of caring for patients is too much. To survive medicine, doctors put on armor so we can go into the battlefield of medicine and do the work we do. The armor is the walls and barriers we erect to maintain a safe distance from all that comes at us in the line of duty. Our armor may take the form of the white coat and stethoscope that defines us as the doctor and the person on the examining table as the patient. Behind our white coat and stethoscope, we keep our humanity at bay. We hide the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion that comes with the MD after our name. We take on this authoritative persona that may manifest as cold, demanding and indifferent.
Wearing this armor benefits not only the physician. It benefits medicine as a whole. It allows doctors to continue to serve their patients in the face of challenges and adversity. It gives doctors the ability to move from exam room to exam room. With our armor on, we are conditioned to give unfavorable test results to the patient in exam room one and move right along to the exam room two where a word of reassurance is all that is needed. The walls that we have built shield doctors from the feeling of helplessness when all medical interventions have been exhausted, and there is little left to offer the patient. It is how we can sit with the family after they have lost their loved ones and hide our pain until we find a more appropriate place to express it. Some doctors never do express it.
Each doctor puts on her or his own armor. It shows up in different ways. But wearing this armor presents its own challenges. While it shields us from the pain, it separates us from the people of medicine. It distances us from the core of our being. Instead of building connections with people, numbness seeps in and pushes compassion and understanding away. This separation can be the gateway to criticism, demoralizing colleagues, workplace bullying and even patient dissatisfaction.
The armor we design to protect us becomes the very thing that keeps doctors from living fully. Instead of connecting to one another and building meaningful relationships that support professional and personal growth, we stay disconnected and stuck in the struggle that has become common in medicine.
3 ways that your armor may be ruining your medical career
1. Your armor has taken over and is no longer serving your best interest if you start your day expecting the worse instead of living in positive expectation. You tell yourself that if you expect the worse, then you will not be disappointed. Holding this type of energy is wearing you down and keeping you drained.
2. Your armor has taken over and is no longer serving you if you feel detached from your patients, your colleagues, and your life. You are wearing your armor at times when it is no longer needed. While you maintain a professional distance with your patients and your colleagues, you are also disconnected from your passion and purpose. Instead of feeling energized by the work that you do, it takes all of your effort to get and stay motivated.
3. Your armor is holding you back if you tell the same story or complain about the same issues in medicine over and over. Your armor has taken the shape of the limiting beliefs that you have told over the years to keep you safe from the negative feedback and criticism that you have endured in medicine. It’s chipped away at your confidence and blocked your ability to extrapolate the critical lessons that will allow you to find your next level of phenomenal. You have fallen into the trap of collecting evidence to support the frustration and struggle that keeps you feeling like a victim instead of being empowered to make the shifts needed to live into all you are meant to be.
It does not have to be this way. To reveal and reconnect to your greatest self, doctors must be willing to peel back their armor and release the struggle. It is a process that takes time and consistent effort. The rewards are invaluable.
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