The Best Work Advice You’ll Ever Get

Okay, that’s probably a stretch, but anyway….

This week I had the pleasure of grabbing dinner with a friend/mentor in the department that I am about to join.  This particular mentor has completed her residency and is now in the process of establishing her career as an attending.  We became friends because we had similar interests, and over the years I have found her advice to always be spot on.  I wanted to post some of the great advice that she gave me.  Even though she was clearly thinking about the hospital work environment, this advice is generalizable to lots of different workplaces.

1. Do the basics well.  Unfortunately medical training places a huge emphasis on the obscure, and sometimes trainees lose the forest for the trees.  It is better to perform the daily functions of your job well than to know every single random tidbit about your field.  Knowing that very rare complication of drug X is not very important if you can’t actually order drug X correctly.  This year I am going to strive to write excellent notes, place accurate orders, and give good presentations.  All of the medical knowledge will come with time.

2. Triage every single day.  Be proactive and imagine the worst possible things that could go wrong.  Then specifically address those things first to keep them from happening.  In medicine this often means identifying the sickest patients and keeping a close watch on them.

3. Always get the full story.  It’s very hard to make a management plan if you don’t have the full history.  If things don’t make sense, slow down or start over.  This hearkens back to #1.

4. Spend more time on the front end to save time later.  Spend time every morning planning the day.  Get a good history now so that you’re not trying to chase it down later.  Establish good personal organization systems.

5. Don’t get sucked into drama.  Patients will lie to you and ignore your advice.  Colleagues will inevitably screw up.  Once it has happened, move on and get work done.  When others complain don’t get pulled down into the fray.  Surround yourself with positive people.

6.  Establish a healthy routine for dealing with immediate stress.  This routine should provide a physical practice to associate with relief of the stressor.  For example, when something bad happened one physician would wash his hands, figuratively removing the problem and allowing it to run down the drain.  It is better to spend some time dealing with your anger or stress in a way that works for you than to take it out on someone else.

I thought that all of this was really excellent advice, and I am excited to implement it into my routine.