One might call me a serially passionate person. When connected to a passion, we feel boundless enthusiasm and longing for the object of our passion. Passions provide excitement; they reflect and satisfy our inner desires.
For thirty years, my passion was to understand and treat patients with venous disorders, to discern the extent and impact of my patients’ condition, and to help them find relief. Exploring and contributing to this undeveloped field of medicine fed my need for discovery, love of teaching, and yearning to help the underserved.
Riding horses was once my top passion. Creating partnership with an animal so different than I am was an exhilarating way of connecting with nature and my own body. Last year, the bass guitar entered my life, reconnecting me with the soulfulness and spirituality of music that had long been part of my experience.
Each passion nourished a part of me, satisfied a desire that was languishing, and added aliveness, which is essential for a healthy life.
Many physicians’ passion for medicine has eroded. We feel devalued by menial, unfulfilling tasks and by the label “provider.” We feel disrespected when insurance company employees overrule our decisions. We mourn the loss of close, fulfilling relationships with patients, where we found great joy. Even if we maintain a love for our work, a career lasts for decades, numbing us to the delight and fulfillment we wish to feel each working day.
In a long career and your current practice of medicine, where can you find passion?
Incorporating former passions can revive the spark in our work lives.
If art, music, or sports excite you, discussing these topics with patients and staff can enliven your day. As a cooking buff, I delighted each November in trading Thanksgiving recipes with patients. Bringing our interests into work relationships also creates personal connection and congruence that can prevent burnout.
Finding the meaning in our work is a potent way to rekindle passion. The Remen Institute for the Study of Health and Illness offers a three-question journal to focus our attention on what touches us each day. Spending a few moments each evening recalling what surprised us, moved us, and inspired us will refresh our memories and highlight these positive experiences each day.
What if your passions don’t fit within the context of your medical work?
Adding even small increments of activities that light you up can re-energize your life. This renewed connection with parts of you that have been ignored can change your outlook towards your work, as each part of our lives affects the others.
We are never encouraged to prioritize passion. It doesn’t provide CME credits or a tangible benefit to our patients. Yet, if enlivening our lives balances the challenges of medicine or helps us feel inspired by our work, it may be even more important. When doctors leave medical practice prematurely due to burnout, they offer no benefit to patients. If you care about providing optimum care, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself: where do I feel passion?