Being a Joyful Doctor

Even as today's physicians admit patient interaction is one of the few things they love about medicine, the vast majority of them think that appropriate time with their patients is forever gone

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”

—Emily Dickinson

If I know one thing about my physician-dad’s long medical career, it’s that he really enjoyed the time he spent with his patients. And his patients loved him too. I hear about it from many of them today, some two decades after his retirement.

Dad’s ability to connect with a patient, discern their illness, establish a course of treatment, and push for compliance was masterful. He was a doctor who was providing the joy of wellness—even before the term became fashionable. This is sacred territory for doctors and patients.

And even as today’s physicians admit it’s one of the few things they love about medicine, the vast majority of them think that appropriate time with their patients is forever gone. A recent national survey of physicians by Geneia found that nearly 85% of doctors believe quality patient time may be a thing of the past (and 78% say they frequently feel rushed when seeing patients).

“For most physicians, the ability to create meaningful relationships with their patients and truly impact health outcomes is why they entered the practice of medicine in the first place, and is critical to experiencing joy in their work,” says Heather Lavoie, Geneia’s COO. The company has created the Joy of Medicine Challenge to help promote professional satisfaction for physicians.

But with nearly 90% of doctors also saying that today’s healthcare business and regulatory environment has changed the practice of medicine for the worse, it looks like the ability to see the bright side of things must come from the individual doctor.

Once found on a personal level, it’s hopefully something that can be passed onto patients, regardless of the amount of time spent with them.

Amit Sood, MD, a professor of medicine at the venerable Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and chairman of the Mayo Mind Body Initiative, is the author of The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness. Dr. Sood explains that “happiness is a habit. Some of us are innately happy. But most others have to choose.” The following are his four steps to finding more happiness and joy in your life:

1. Train Your Attention: Learning to focus your attention enables you to command your thoughts and shift perspective.

2. Cultivate Emotional Resilience: Build inner emotional strength by making room for gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.

3. Start a Mind-Body Practice: Deepen your spiritual awareness through meditation, prayer, or any other mind-body practices that work for you.

4. Pick Healthy Habits: Direct your willpower to making positive, concrete changes to lead to a healthier you—eat well, exercise, worry less.

For more information on Dr. Sood and his work visit his website.