What I learnt this week: The poison of passion #WILTW

This is the 59th #WILTW


This tweet hugely resonated with me. I am generally a ‘can-do’ person. I like to be able to complete tasks on time. I don’t like letting people down. This applies to patients & colleagues and I take great pride in what I do.

But there is a flip side, a danger with taking this mindset too far, a poison of this passion as it were. It’s a result of feeling that you need to close all loops even when the result may be detrimental  to you personally. A paediatric colleague described this as ‘hero’ syndrome to me. It is diagnosed in the junior doctor who never leaves on time; the one who is always going that extra mile for their patients. While intuitively this seems an admirable, perhaps even essential quality, perversely this approach isn’t always as beneficial as it seems. Sometimes a ward doctor concentrating on the one child they think is in most need of care misses little things in other patients. The doctor at a weekend going back to repetitively check on a baby they have admitted may result in emergently presenting patients not being seen as promptly as they should be. “Heroes” are diligent, hard working, compassionate doctors but need managing all the same.


As an Emergency Medicine consultant I must be extremely careful not to get caught up with just one patient. My responsibility is to all in the department. This sometimes means I can’t spend time chatting with parents in a way I might have done as a junior. It may be rewarding to be involved in the care of our most sick patients in resus from start to finish but once they have been stabilised and are awaiting admission into hospital I need to ensure other patients in the department are receiving timely treatment. This conundrum of focus is not related to patient care, it impacts on administrative and academic responsibilities as well.

And this is my Achilles heel. The desire to get tasks done and always complete on time can be unhealthy. It is true that poor time management can result in difficulty in balancing your priorities. But even with effective use of Eisenhowers window it can still be difficult to say ‘no’. What might be of great importance to you in terms of another project or research idea is not good for you if you come home distracted and distant to your family.


What is the antidote to this? I think I am still working on it. I know it is easy to shrug off the comments of friends and family who often recognise the symptoms before you do. It is also true the poison acts like a virus and can lie dormant for long periods returning insidiously. A start maybe to frame the decision to do that extra ‘thing’ or to stay that bit later with the question: Is this is important to me or for me?

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

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