How Others Perceive You
I had an incredible realization today that came through a hard conversation yesterday. One of the nurses was talking to me about a conversation she had with the residents over the weekend, and apparently I came up. They seem to think that I was the "5th year who was sort of checked out and didn't care about this rotation." Personally, I know I had been joking with people about this because it seems like almost a ridiculous scenario that I'd be working two months of a second year rotation as a 5th year resident.
However, that impression really hurt because I thought I had been working hard and surpassing any expectations I had set for myself while I was here. I kept our unit running pretty tightly. The list was always updated well. I knew the patients better than anyone else in the hospital. I took care of business when I was on call and kept calls to attendings to a minimum.
I even came back to check on a patient after I had left for the day because the charge nurse called me and told me she wasn't looking great. She ended up needing to be coded as I walked in, and the person I had signed out to didn't know anything about her. I missed my dinner plans, staying hours to code her again and tuck her in before leaving. Since it looked like she was going to die soon and wouldn't get her wish to go back to her home country, I printed out a picture of an ocean view from that country and hung it above the head of her bed. If I couldn't save her life, at least that would be the closest I could get her back to home.
I sat there at 1:00 am this morning while on call pondering why there was such a disconnect between what I did and what some people thought of me. I know that people who know me well don't question my character and intentions at all. They understand and trust the quality of my work habits and my outcomes. However, sometimes those who don't know me well question my ability and my efforts. How can there be two vastly divergent views of the same work that I do?
Then it hit me. All those times it seemed like I was literally "shrugging off" stuff. I had been told so many times before, but I never really considered the impact of that small gesture and how it shaped how other viewed me. I occasionally take a very cavalier attitude towards a subject, literally shrugging my shoulder and giving an unempathic "Eh, whatever."
That one phrase can be interpreted by others in so many ways. It can mean that I don't care about whatever you are talking about. It can mean that I don't care about the patient, the procedure, etc. It can mean that I don't care to put enough effort into it. It can mean that I've checked out completely.
I actually do it mainly because I find it amusing how people react when I do it. They're surprised that I seem to care so little, but they don't necessarily see the work I do afterwards. They may not see the follow up that I then give my patients or give the subject matter that we had discussed. They don't see that I give careful consideration to every decision I make for patients and to every movement I make during surgery. Sometimes, I do it because I'm being lazy and I just don't want to take the time to verbalize the rationale for why I'm doing something at that moment. That's where the disconnect comes in.
This leads me to a potential turning point. Now that I realize it, I can either let it continue to happen or I can do something to improve it. I've chosen to try to change it, to try to be more aware of when I seem to brush things off to others. I'll make the change because my relationship with them is important enough for me to do it. I want to make them feel like I care about them and care about being part of a team with them. I already do, but it's time to take a few extra steps to make sure they know it too.