Since I got into emergency medicine, back in 1995, I have watched myself and I have watched other doctors, to see if I could identify a pattern. A method, that helps the physician quickly and easily decide on what's the best course of action, and how best to interact with a patient, and of course, that patient's loved ones.
I used to think it was all academic prowess. That only the really brilliant physicians did well. The ones who graduated with honors and were always on the Dean's List at med-school. Now, that's all fine and dandy, and it helps you get a job, but it doesn't do anything for your job satisfaction. It doesn't help you manage patients more efficiently and it sure doesn't help you find yourself.
What's the secret? What makes certain 'brilliant' doctors, miserable, unhappy, burnt-out and looking for something else to do, while other 'academically average' doctors appear to be having a good time in their chosen career, and resonating really well with coworkers, patients and patients' families?
I teach my students these days: "if you don't know what to do, just ask yourself a simple question: what would you do if it was your family?" This question has saved me. It has saved many a patient. It suddenly changed me (this years ago) from the young ER doc who was too afraid to get the grumpy cardiologist or neurosurgeon out of bed to come in and do the right thing, to a confident, smiling physician who genuinely had fun, doing the best thing he could do for the patient in trouble. I used to care about ordering a CT angiogram at 3am because it would piss off the radiologist or the surgeon, to the guy who orders whatever he wants, whenever he wants, 'because it's the bloody right thing to do'. I'm not one for corny spiritual reflection, but I do feel incredibly grateful and blessed that I get to fix people in trouble as an ER doc. I also get to prevent serious disease as an internist. I also get to innovate with new ideas in the acute care and work comp business, not to mention virtual telemedicine.
The goal here has never waivered: what would I do for my own loved ones? That's what every physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, nurse, patient care tech, medical assistant and medical secretary should be thinking and asking of him/herself, if they ever find themselves wondering what's the right decision. Simple eh?