In my office the other day, I was running on time and had a few extra minutes to visit with one of my patients.
As we swapped stories about what's going on in our worlds, I mentioned my passion for helping doctors love medicine again. I told her I hoped it would help with physician burnout.
As a teacher with years of experience, my patient knows a thing or two about burnout. She shared a tip that might help us doctors, too.
She told me about The Secret of the Bottom Right Desk Drawer.
Over the years as a teacher, many of her students have sent her gifts of acknowledgement and thanks. She's received loving notes from children; a postcard from a college student, thanking her for all she taught him about English grammar; an email from a parent, letting her know the extra effort she had shown their child was appreciated.
She saves all these treasures in her bottom right desk drawer.
At the end of each semester, she gets a cup of tea, opens her bottom right desk drawer, and savors the memories of all the wonder tucked inside those notes.
On those dark days when she feels frustrated with her work, she returns to her desk and opens that bottom right desk drawer.
She closes her eyes and picks out a note at random, like drawing gems from a treasure chest.
She sits back and slowly reads the message of love and gratitude, and reminds herself of why she became a teacher in the first place.
I love this story.
I have started my own practice of saving my treasures in my bottom right desk drawer.
When I get an email from an overwhelmed surgical resident, thanking me for the lifeline one of my blog posts has given her, it goes in the drawer.
When one of the doctors I'm coaching has an "aha moment" and brims with new inspired zest for their practice, a note of that conversation goes in the drawer.
When one of my patients reminds me of why I went to medical school, it goes in the drawer.
Pick a drawer. A basket. A box.
I'll bet you can even think of two things right this minute that could go in that drawer.
Take the time.
Start the practice.
It's a good first step to acknowledging how special you truly are to the world of medicine.
You'll be surprised at how great it makes you -- and your colleagues -- feel to share the love.