Flashback friday: Physician, heal thyself | AMA (WA)

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Flashback friday: Physician, heal thyself

Friday January 14, 2022

Australian Medical Association (WA)

Dr Omar Khorshid, AMA Federal President, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Head of Department, Fremantle Hospital, Managing Partner, Coastal Orthopaedic Group.

Most of the stress in my life comes from a lack of time. It would be great if there were more hours in the day or if I only needed three hours of sleep at night, but the reality is different. Modern specialist life, particularly working across both private and public sectors, can feel like being constantly pulled from pillar to post.

Public hospitals are now obsessed with targets – some meaningful, some not. Sometimes the targets clash, such as NEAT and NEST targets, meaning we are pressured to admit patients for surgery but are unable find a bed to put them in. Bureaucracy in health seems to be growing at an exponential rate and its impact on clinical care of patients is also increasing.

‘Mandatory’ but pointless training is required in areas that have no relevance to day-to-day practice, but the only way to avoid repeated email reminders – and threats – is to submit and do the training.

Private practice is another environment altogether, with stressors around finances, running a business, employing and managing staff and managing relationships with hospitals and other bodies amongst many others.

Although spending time with family and friends is a great way to have some time out from the stresses of work, the fact that there is not enough time to do so can be a stressor in itself.

For many of my colleagues, exercise is a great tool for maintaining fitness and letting off steam and I wish I were in that category. Although I did buy a bike recently, it hasn’t had a lot of use, perhaps due to the amount of time I spend in committees and meetings in my various roles. More likely, though, it’s because I look quite ridiculous in Lycra.

In my world, the best way to deal with stress is to share it. I am lucky enough to have great colleagues around me in both my work environments as well as a very understanding (and medical) wife, so it’s never difficult to debrief after a tough day. A collegiate work environment with adequate administrative support is critical to managing and thriving in the modern healthcare environment.

I get a little time out and I value every opportunity to cook a meal for friends and family, to chase my two-year-old around a park or to fall asleep trying to read a book or watch a movie. I have a regular day off where tasks that would otherwise take up family time on weekends and evenings can be done during working hours.

I’ve learnt a simple technique for prioritisation that keeps me sane – I focus on tasks that are either important and urgent, or important but not urgent. Urgent but unimportant tasks will be delegated or ignored and if it’s unimportant and non-urgent, it doesn’t even get considered. So if I haven’t answered your email, now you know why!