Since antiquity, mankind has held a belief in the deadly sins. A list of seven infamous and destructive vices may not feel like the natural place to look for inspiration to help a health service creaking under a myriad of pressures and challenges.
But, there is one deadly sin that Doctors and other healthcare workers would benefit from indulging in more often.
Gluttony? – Those christmas chocolates in the staff room are delicious, but you will regret eating too many and it doesn’t set a good example.
Wrath? – We see injustice every day. However, revenge usually disappoints and escalates.
Envy? – Being jealous of your friend who made a million in the city won’t help anyone.
Lust? – Fraternising on the ward won’t help the patients.
Sloth? – Laziness and not doing what you should will harm patients and your career.
Greed? – Perhaps – Money is a good motivator, and pay is important, but the NHS is not the place to make millions.
I am thinking of course, of Pride!
The sin of pride is confusing.
We are proud of our children, our families, our heritage. Have you ever wished someone would take more pride in their work? Pride can motivate people to study hard and to do their best for others. Surely it is ok to be proud?
On the other hand, pride can lead us to be overconfident in our abilities, to believe that we are special and superior, and to ignore warnings thinking we know better. Pride can turn people into dangerous jerks.
Pride has always been part of the identity and perception of the medical profession. From the widely held image of the kindly and open minded yet educated and decisive physician to the stereotype of the arrogant and head strong old surgeon (sorry surgeons ;-)).
“As we enter the year 2027, the all knowing iNHS Super Intelligence – HUNT – H.ealth U.nder N.ew T.echnolgy, faces attacks and sabotage as out of work doctors, A.K.A. “Lub-Dub-ites”, continue to throw their stethoscopes into the gears…”
1.2 million patients in North London are to be offered assessment and advice via an Artificially Intelligent Chatbot using an App provided by Babylon, a private firm who already offer private video chat GP appointments for £25.
“This is the most mismanaged gp surgery I have ever had the displeasure to use. Difficult to get appointments, impossible to plan around work, rude receptionist…”
It is difficult to see how any surgery could use this sort of general criticism to achieve anything positive. More often I find that this sort of comment leaves staff demoralised and defensive.
The premise of NHS Choices sounds superficially sensible. Provide potential patients with honest, good quality testimonials about GP practices. These rational and informed consumers will then choose to take their business to the best practices. The good surgeries are rewarded with new business. The underperformers will respond to patient feedback and improve, or eventually lose patients and go broke.
In most industries and under normal circumstances this would make sense. But, General Practice is not a normal industry and these are strange times. In an environment of clinical staff shortages, many practices simply do not need or want to attract more patients. They simply cannot find or afford the staff they would need to look after them. In addition, due to practices boundary rules, patient choice may be limited to only a collection of equally poorly rated practices facing shared recruitment and demographic problems.
Feedback is powerful. Thoughtful feedback given with good intentions by a skilled tutor or friend can encourage a student to improve and excel. But, careless feedback can hurt, demoralise and block progress.
Feedback is a useful tool when applied in the right way to a suitable problem…
Working as a GP in the esteemed but overstretched british national institution which is the modern NHS can be tough at times. I felt this a little more than usual last week having just returned from my summer holiday in the artificial bubble and pinnacle of one of America’s own national institutions – Disney World – the “happiest place on earth”.
Since beginning this blog, I’m always on the lookout for innovative ideas. Free association of unrelated concepts is a great source of inspiration. So I kept my iPhone in hand to jot down any thoughts that might help improve life and care within General Practice or the wider NHS.
A. Work hard, to achieve success, then feel happy.
The A-Level student knows they will be happy when they get into Medical School. The medical student will be happy when they graduate. The foundation doctor wants a good specialist training place. The specialist trainee will be happy when they complete training and find a permanent job. The GP/Consultant thinks they will be happy when they have saved enough money for early retirement….
Delayed gratification is certainly an essential part of the toolkit needed to achieve success. But, like me, you have probably learnt that there is more to actually being happy.
The obvious problem with the approach above is that happiness is all too often replaced by the next challenge. It is always in the future, when where we live is the present.
Evidence from the field of behavioural psychology suggests that this conventional wisdom about how to find happiness has even deeper flaws. And that the relationship between work, success and happiness is more complex than our instinctive, socially conditioned first thoughts might imply.
Shawn Achor, a Harvard Lecturer and psychologist, suggests in his book “The Happiness Advantage”, that the relationship between work, success and happiness actually runs in the opposite directions.
“People are smarter, more effective and resilient when they are happy”