Lately I’ve heard similar comments from different colleagues and it’s caused me to do some thinking. What is it that keeps me “in the game”?  What fuels my passion for my work,  my desire to continuously grow and change?

In any field, including health care, it is easy to become complacent.  Do the job, make no mistakes, go home and refuel so you’re ready for the next day.  I’ve had discussions with many colleagues over the past few weeks who are feeling burned out, unable to make the impact they would like, some basically waiting for retirement.

It’s caused me to think about the next 25 years of my working life.  How do I want to live them out as a professional?  What do I enjoy about health care and Pharmacy?  Tough questions, but I started small, thinking about what I enjoy on a day-to-day basis in my work.  Well….I’ll admit that it’s not the paper work, dealing with insurance companies or the myriad of technical functions that need to be done.  What I enjoy is engagement.

I love to debate the finer points of treatment strategy with colleagues. I love educating patients. I love solving therapeutic problems and making a difference in someone’s life.

These are the fuel for my passion.  I must admit though that there usually isn’t enough of that fuel in my daily work to sustain me.

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Often when I work with colleagues there isn’t time to discuss patient care or innovative practice.  And a lot of the time I am working alone.  There isn’t much I can do about either of those circumstances.  Health Care is a business and the bottom line always stands.

I have found though, another source that was a big turning point for me in renewing my interest and passion for health care.  Since I started tapping into social media I find I am fuelled up and energized by the connection I make with other professionals and the constant access to innovative learning.  The networking I do with other professionals peaks my interest, has me exploring areas of health care I never would have previously, and keeps me active in “sharpening the saw” as Stephen Covey would say.

That may sound strange as social media is usually thought of as a way to connect and “chat” with friends.  I, however, have been using social media, primarily Twitter, to tap into a vast stream of professionals interested in doing the same thing I am. That is sharing ideas and resources and not being afraid to disagree and hash out a topic.

My twitter connections are varied in the fields of pharmacy, medicine, nursing, education, politics and other areas of personal interest. The posting these fine people do provides me with a continually changing, challenging and interesting access to learning.

One of the components I love about Twitter is the ability to hold the equivalent of an online meeting. Usually called a meet-up or chat. Some of the ones I participate in for example are #meded which are folks interested in improving medical education.  Also #hcsm which stands for Health Care Social Media.  These meet-ups involve interested parties discussing  the same topic at the same time.

I’ve also followed conferences on Twitter such as #med2.0 which was held at Stanford this year. Attendants at a conference send tweets out about what they are hearing and learning (along with pictures, slides, even video) and I following along can engage in real-time discussion with participants.

Bottom line for me is that I need to be engaged to find work interesting. If I don’t try to solve a patient’s problem, explore therapeutics or learn some new pharmacology, it’s not interesting to me and I’m just putting in time.  I need to keep expanding my world.  And with social networking that expansion has become global.

Keeping the End in Mind

Last night I stayed up late to watch Jack Layton’s funeral.  During the day I did see pictures and read the Eulogy on line and the many Tweets from Canadians as the funeral was taking place.  I figured I probably didn’t need to sit and watch the event itself  but am very glad I did.

There were many amazing tributes about Jack’s life that touched me, but the one thing I woke up thinking about this morning is the fearlessness with which Jack approached his death.

When his cancer came back, Layton sat down with his wife and his pastor, Brent Hawkes,  and planned out his funeral.  Not, as Hawkes said, because he was giving up or because he was ready to die, quite the opposite.  But he wanted to be ready for the end, whenever that would come.

 “Jack was in good spirits and said, ‘I am going to fight this cancer, I am going to beat it, but we need to have plans in place, just in case,’” said Hawkes, pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church.

Not everyone can look at their own mortality and acknowledge it as a real part of life and only a matter of time.  When faced with the possibility of death due to illness I have seen people respond in several ways.  I have seen those who spend their last days angry, or bitter and resentful and I have seen the opposite.  People who embrace the end and do all they can to express their love for those around them.

What does that mean for me?  That’s what I woke up thinking about today.  We will all die, and even those of us who are in good health have the possibility of sudden death through accident or
tragedy.  None of us knows how much time we truly have left.

This reminded me of Stephen Covey’s line to “Begin with the end in mind”.  Covey speaks of this in terms of remembering your goals and if you keep the end in sight it gives you the courage to keep striving for them.  It does however apply to the end of our lives as well.  To keep the end in mind, the fact that I am mortal and only have a limited time to my life, keeps me focused on what really matters in my life.

To wake up each morning and acknowledge that the day stretched before me is a gift……that is the way I want to live my life.  To keep in mind the end.  That I don’t really know how many days like today I will have.  So if I am stepping over toys, wiping up spills, and dealing with yet another unhappy patient at work, I can be grateful that I am here.  Thankful that I am able to help that patient, wipe my child’s tears, kiss the hurts and referee the fights.

Being able to look my own mortality in the face keeps me grateful. And I believe that gratefulness is the root of happiness.  I cannot be truly thankful for my life without being happy.