The air is getting crisp, the ambient light is dwindling, and the remaining wood, eerily glowing, has lost its flame.    You find yourself sitting alone, in front of the remnants of the once fierce and effervescent blaze – now just an incandescent luminosity.

Has the fire burnt out?   How do you know when it is past the point of resurrection?

Charcoal, Embers, Fire, Barbecue, Hot

The passion and commitment to medical practice, I believe, is like a fire – fuelled by curiosity and intellect, discovery and teaching.  It is fostered by a conducive environment of family, friends, patients, colleagues and community.   The fire needs warmth and oxygen, best provided by favourable environs.

Sometimes, and often after some time, the elements needed to keep the fire burning with vigour misalign, come unstuck, derail, or just go AWOL. As medical practitioners, how do we recognise this, and if we do, how do we get the flames going again without a firelighter or a ripped up newspaper that only provides a momentary solution?

The recent debate regarding doctor’s health and mandatory reporting has highlighted the important issue of ‘burnout’ and the barriers to medical practitioners seeking help. So where can we get some more kindling from?

Fuel:  Curiosity, intellect, discovery, teaching – Take the time to reflect on why you got into this game.   Enjoy the banter, the narratives, the unexpected findings – and pass it onto others.

Environment:   Family, friends, patients, colleagues, community – Remember that YOU are not the fire.   You are part of a collective that contributes to and requires it.   Embrace and explore that.

Warmth and oxygen: Favourable environs always help.   Sunshine and fresh air are responsible for many wondrous things including the glorious little endorphin rush you get with exercise.   Why not try a ‘walk and talk’ consult in a park nearby?

Despite all best advice, sometimes even the most ‘badged up’ Boy Scout (or Girl Guide) can’t get that fire going.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when that is what is needed.

Doctors are human  – we are not infallible.

Medical practice is the only ‘helping profession’ that does not embrace professional supervision as a routine part of practice.   This is sad and a culture that needs to be changed.

An option that we seldom embrace but are opportune in our ability to do so, is to step away from the fire.    As practitioners we are multi-skilled and are in the luxurious position of having diverse employment opportunities.   Often as the fire dwindles though, our confidence and capability to explore these options sadly fades…

So how do we ensure that our ‘fire’ as medical practitioners burns brightly and sustainably?

  • Plan our own fires well, tend them regularly, and ensure that all the elements are of good quality and well supplied.
  • Look out for our colleagues fires – could they benefit from our tending skills or can we share some of our elements?
  •        Appoint a Fire Warden:    We all need someone who can  provide us with                      additional assistance and confidence when things aren’t going as planned.

I encourage you all to take some time this weekend review your passion and ‘fire’ for medicine and embrace the opportunity to nurture the flames with the fuel of curiosity and teaching, consider the ambience of connections, and the warmth and oxygen of the environment.   Then allow yourself to toast a marshmallow and enjoy!

Image result for toasted marshmallows pixabay

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