Grace Growth patient-doctor relationship

Sharing Your Personal Bloopers

If your life was a movie, would you play your bloopers at the end?

Maybe not if it was a major blooper that did you in. That could bring more tears than laughter.

Laughing with others at our own bloopers can be therapeutic and necessary for personal growth. We must first acknowledge our responsibility for our decisions and actions. When we make a mistake with the potential to harm others – even when it is not intentional, we must accept our personal responsibility.

This in fact is part of the new culture of disclosure in health care. In the course of a patient’s care, should health care providers make a mistake, such as giving the wrong dose of a medication – even if it does not result in harm to that patient, they are ethically obliged to disclose the error to the patient.

This transparency is essential for improvements in safety in health care. We can learn from these mistakes and take steps to reduce future errors.

Of course medical mistakes are seldom funny, and no one laughs at these bloopers.

Laughing at ourselves when we do silly things can relieve the pressure of trying to look perfect. If we take ourselves too seriously and worry too much about looking good to everyone else, we may set unrealistic standards and cause ourselves more stress.

Fear of falling or looking foolish can hold us back from trying new things, meeting new people, learning and growing. Maybe we should all let our loved ones know which bloopers they may share at our memorial services. We could start a new trend that would reduce blooper phobia in the living, reminding everyone that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we can learn and laugh.

What would you do today if you were not afraid of failing or looking foolish?

Compassion Grace Growth Wisdom

If Your Life was a Movie, Would You Show Your Bloopers at the End?

When I’m watching a movie with my kids, we won’t leave the theatre before the credits are done because some of the best scenes can be at the end.

Bloopers are now so popular that they’re even inserted at the end of cartoons like Monsters, Inc. and the Toy Story movies.

They offer a release from the altered reality of movies. On film, all is not only bigger and better than life but cleaner, neater and prettier. The average actor is a lot better looking than the average people we see in the mirror and on the streets.

In movies and television, teeth are unnaturally white, faces more symmetric and perfect. Even if characters burp or pass gas (usually for a laugh), we won’t smell anything (other than popcorn and the real people sitting around you).

Returning to real life can be a let down. The bloopers remind us that the movie we just saw was a work of fiction and the actors themselves are imperfect and fallible just like us. They flub their lines, trip themselves up and laugh uncontrollably.

Still in real life, most of us want to show our best selves to others and shy away from bragging about our blunders. At the end of our lives, we expect a solemn respectful service where our loved ones remember the good things we did. Thinking about this can inform our lives today as we strive to live as we wish to be remembered.

But making mistakes and being imperfect makes us human like everyone else.

And the mistakes we make are a necessary part of learning and growing. I hope I will never be so old as to be afraid to try new things, make new mistakes and learn from them.

Next: Learning from our mistakes. Even doctors are acknowledging and disclosing their errors.

Growth patient-doctor relationship Relationships Wisdom

What I Learn From My Patients

In my last post, I said that good doctors learn from their patients. That may be one reason why we say we practice medicine. And I guess patients do have to be patient – waiting for a young doctor to practice on them until they get good at it.

We’re just lucky that no one asks why we get paid to just practice.

Now don’t take that to mean that older docs are better or safer than rookie physicians. The most dangerous physician – whether young or old – is one who is overconfident. We can make mistakes if we step beyond our scope of practice, if we don’t recognize and respect our personal limitations, if we stop listening, and if we jump to conclusions.

Both inexperienced and jaded physicians may assume that a patient’s symptoms are due to the most common diagnosis. They may jump to a quick diagnosis even if the signs and symptoms don’t quite match.

Physicians are more likely to do this when rushing from patient to patient in a busy ER or clinic.

An astute physician will listen to his intuition and maintain a broad differential diagnosis. When symptoms don’t quite fit, he will ask more questions.

When I teach hand washing technique to 1st year medical students (Yes. We now teach this in med school.), I stress the importance of taking the time to disinfect effectively. I advise them to wash their hands mindfully and ritually, closing with the patient they have just seen – and making sure there are no loose ends, unanswered or unasked questions or pieces that do not fit – before preparing to focus fully and mindfully with the next patient.

If you find that your physician may have rushed to make your diagnosis, you can open her mind by asking, “What’s the worst thing it could be?” and “What else could it be?”

These questions force physicians to pause and look at all the information again, reformulating a broader differential diagnosis of all the possibilities, including the less probable but more serious.

I continue to learn from my patients as they learn from their experiences and relationships. And what I learn from them enriches my care of other patients.

Real life teaches grownups in ways much different from school or practice. In life, lessons come after the tests. We learn by failing. We succeed by first falling.

In real life, we may not have to repeat a grade, but we have to repeat our lessons until we have learned them.

As we grow older, gain knowledge from experience and grow wiser, the more we recognize how little we know. As teens and young adults, we may think we know a lot more than our parents but as we face the challenges of independence and parenthood, we may better recognize their wisdom.

May you never believe that you are too old to learn something new. Even if you become forgetful, you will have to relearn what you used to know.

Growth patient-doctor relationship

Never Stop Learning. Doctors Don’t.

As students have settled into their classes and are just starting to hit the books, the rest of us can sit back and relax. Right?

As any physician can attest, the learning never stops.

The hardest first day of school was my first day at medical school. We started anatomy lectures that very first day which ended in the gross anatomy lab itself. There we met the cadavers we would be dissecting as we immersed our minds in the infinite details of the human body.

We felt behind from day one, and the question that haunted every medical student was, “Will I ever know enough?”

We learned a great deal in medical school. There was no limit to the detail and depth we could study. Any detail could be clinically relevant and not only be the difference between passing and failing but life and death.

We were told that we were learning enough medical words to constitute a whole new language. No wonder normal people have difficulty understanding what their doctors are saying.

But in spite of the hours of study in libraries, in labs and on hospital wards, all that we learned in medical school was not enough to make us great doctors.

Good doctors learn from their patients. That may be one reason why we say we practice medicine. And I guess patients do have to be patient – waiting for a young doctor to practice on them until they get good at it.

Next: Who are the most dangerous doctors?

Awareness Compassion Emotions Grace Growth Love Meditation Relationships

Love: the Measure of All Things & the Answer to Every Question

In my 7Q7M (7 Questions/7 Mantras) method of meditation, I ask myself the 7 questions, each reflecting on various aspects of my awareness, knowing that I exist at many levels though I may be centred on one or two at a time.

What am I feeling?               Feel your breath.

What am I thinking?            Think on peace.

What am I doing?                  Walk in grace.

What am I saying?                 Speak the truth.

How am I relating?               Express love.

What do I see?                         See beauty.

Who am I?                                Experience wonder.

Habit or routine, crisis or tunnel vision, obsession or distraction may lead me to neglect the totality of my being and who – at my core – I really am.

Each question prompts me to shift attention to an aspect of my existence at this moment and to reflect on my current state. The corresponding mantra serves as a guidepost by which I reset my bearings, a compass with which I compare my current state to my ideal.

I may refocus and recenter my perspective and my awareness in this way in an attempt to align my worldly physical self to my transcendent spiritual self.

Though at times it may appear that the two are at odds and it may seem easier to find peace away from the triggers of overpowering emotions, deep conflict and challenging relationships, it is in the living of this life – with the limitations of our bodies; our exposure to chance, luck and misfortune; life’s gifts and challenges; our evolving, everchanging and transient relationships; and the dynamic drama of our lives – that we may grow and learn to love – to love others . . . deeply, freely and unselfishly; to love our lives . . . in all its poignant ephemeral beauty; and our selves . . . our limitations and potentials, our human frailty and greatness; our darkness and our beauty with compassion and patience.

We may seek outward success for our selves as if this is necessary to be loved.

We may seek the perfect love in another . . . or from another, and we are often disappointed when we cannot find it, when it doesn’t last or when we lose it.

But the true love that we may need may lie within us – that capacity to love unconditionally, unselfishly and selflessly without reservation or judgment.

It is the spiritual answer to each of the 7 questions. 

It is the answer to life.

Balance Healthy Living Positive Change

September: Time to Take Charge of Your Routines

The air of September mornings has a cool, wake-up bite to it. Each year, it reminds me to get down to business and engage in the start of a new school year. As our kids fall into their new routines, we adapt to their schedules and establish routines of our own.

I will soon learn which days I drive my daughter to school. (Don’t tell her I secretly look forward to those mornings).

This is also another chance for all grownups – even those without kids in school – to re-evaluate, change or recharge our routines.

Routines can be great. In general, they can make our lives more efficient or at the very least, they save us the trouble of reflecting and making deliberate decisions on how we live each day.

We don’t have to plan a new route to school or work each day. We don’t have to discuss who is shopping, cooking or cleaning up. We don’t have to decide when we should go to bed and at what time we should set our alarms every single night.

Routines save us time and mental energy. That’s why we like them and easily fall into them.

Routines really are great when they’re working for you and those around you.

If you’re workouts at the gym keep you fit and energize you for the day, that routine is working well. But if it makes you late for work or you miss out on precious family time, it’s not.

If your morning routine doesn’t allow time for a healthy breakfast or makes you feel rushed and habitually late for work, consider setting the alarm – and going to bed – earlier.

If watching late night TV, surfing the net and Facebooking are keeping you up past your proper bedtime, consider limiting your own screen time (just as we now recommend parents do with their kids).

When our kids – with their packed schedules and increased need for sleep – are time-challenged, we sit down with them and look at the details of each day. What are they doing with their time? Have we allotted sufficient time for the essentials, including healthy meals and snacks, appropriate rest breaks, a good night’s sleep and study? Have we committed appropriate time for social life, family time, exercise, creative and other enjoyable activities?

As time-challenged grownups, we should do the same. What in our daily and weekly routines do we need more of? What do we need less of? What do we need to eliminate all together?

Is there one thing that you are not doing now that you should or really want to? How will you fit that into your week? What will you need to cut out?

Sometimes, there is not enough time in each day to do all the things we should and want to do. We have to choose what we will do now.

Just as our kids have classes in a variety of subjects, you and I have to attend to a large number of important subjects in our lives, including your family, work, personal health and money. But like disorganized students, we can spend too much time on one subject and neglect the rest. But for grownups, this can lead to a crisis instead of a final for which we can cram.

So each September, I reflect upon my daily and weekly routines. How have I been attending to all the important areas of my life? How can I do better? In real life, the learning never stops.

Balance Emotions Growth Healthy Living Parenting Positive Change The Qualities of a Child

September: A Season of Mixed Emotions

I like being around happy people, and I love the seasons of endemic glee. These are those rare times of the year when most people just feel good and can’t keep from smiling: Christmas and New Year’s, kids during the last week of school, and now parents at the summer’s end.

I’ve seen a lot of happy parents over the past week. Their glee is balanced by the gloom of some of their kids with the end of the lazy days of summer and the prospect of schoolwork. (As I read this to my daughter, she is frowning at this point.)

I recall the mixture of emotions I had every September – looking forward to hanging out with friends, the novelty of new school supplies and clothes, and the little worries kids have about getting good teachers, making the team and doing well in class.

If you or your kids are anxious or sad with these first few weeks of school, acknowledge those feelings and talk about them. Sometimes feelings themselves can linger and grow and shade how we appreciate our days. But they can lose that power when we realize that what we’ve been feeling stressed about is not so daunting after all and our situation is not as bad as we thought.

The positive aspects of September can outbalance the negatives. We still have summerlike weather; in fact, we still have a few weeks of summer left. There is still enough light to have an after dinner walk or cycle as a family.

Weekends are now special. Long ago, my daughter chose Friday to be family movie night when we’ll all sit down on the sofa to share a bowl of popcorn and watch a show together.

As a child, I would look forward to the new series on TV, especially on Saturday mornings. I also enjoyed the newness of things – the first page of each notebook, a new pack of pencil crayons, a clean Pink Pearl eraser and once in a while, a new lunch kit or thermos.

A healthy summer’s end ritual is the holiday debrief. Sitting together at the dinner table or in the family or living room, we share our favourite moments of the summer – the places we went together, the things we did, the people we met and the food we enjoyed.

This is helpful for kids who may have to write an essay on their summer activities. It is helpful for all of us because through our shared experiences we grow in our relationships and as individuals. The holiday debrief reminds us that summer is not lost but rather much has been gained.

And to temper the stress of the early morning rush out the door, we would all do well to plan ahead, start early and slow down. As Ben Franklin said, “Haste makes waste.” We become absent minded, have more accidents and make more mistakes when we rush.

Prepare for the morning the night before with bags packed, lunches made and breakfast planned.

For the rest of us who are drivers, let’s leave a few minutes early so we can slow down – for the heavier traffic, kids at crosswalks, cyclists and school zones.


Caregiving Compassion Forgiveness Grace Growth Love Parenting Relationships

How Is Love Manifest In Your Life?

I recall in my youth – at our neighbourhood United Church, there was a point during each Sunday service when the minister would ask the congregation to share how God had acted in our lives during the week.

Like the open mike of today, various members – young and old – would speak up. A kid might say that he found a quarter on the street. Another would talk about the puppy his parents brought home.

Grownups would talk about a loved one who had been sick – and through the wonder of prayer – had now recovered. People were essentially sharing the positive events of the week.

Not a bad practice I thought – to recognize the good in your life . . . and to voice appreciation for it. I’m all for optimism and seeing the cup not only half full but overflowing.

But I also wondered how people felt about God when things were not going well.Was God responsible for the positive things for them but not the negative? Did they still recognize and appreciate His presence?

How I think about God has changed as I have with age. Having witnessed the drama of relationships, the unpredictability of health, tragedy undeserved, birth and death, I recognized that our limited minds are incapable of truly understanding God.

But I do believe that the best in our lives – and in ourselves – is God manifest through love – the caring of good parents, the understanding and acceptance of friends, the affection and commitment of partners, and the kindness of strangers.

Love is manifest in our lives in countless ways every day – in generosity, forgiveness and compassion.

We live in a beautiful world. There are wonders all around us. Yet the most palpable manifestation of God in our lives is the love we accept and give to one another.

So the question of the week is: How is love manifest in your life?