November 28, 2012

Laughter is good medicine

We can never get enough reminders for how to find happiness. I recently came across an article aimed at physicians about how to create a positive practice environment. Written by Christine S. Moyer for the American Medical Association, the article suggested that doctors should use humor.

"We need to lighten up and show that we're more than doctors. We're human," commented James Ferguson, MD. He keeps a joke book on hand for when he doesn't automatically think of something funny to say. Now that's human.

The benefit of a funny physician is twofold. The positive attitude helps the doctor avoid burnout and it also puts the patient at ease so that they are willing to share their medical history and questions. We've often heard that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe this is why.

At the recent American Academy of Family Physicians Scientific Assembly, speakers shared 10 ideas to help doctors find happiness. I decided to share eight of them here because they are time tested suggestions. PRN. (Take as needed.)

  1. Pause before reacting to something that bothers you and think about how you could respond to the situation.
  2. Develop meaningful connections with your colleagues and staff.
  3. Plan personal and family time and place it on your patient care schedule [work calendar] to help you maintain work-life balance.
  4. Learn to say "non" once in a while to requests for your time.
  5. Focus on what is working in your life rather than fixating on what is not working. 
  6. Laugh with your staff and patients. [coworkers and customers]
  7. Spend time doing things that you're passionate about outside medicine [insert your work] such as creative writing, photography or playing an instrument. 
  8. Volunteer with an organization that cares for the less fortunate.

Let me give special attention to #8. Through my years of involvement in Optimist Clubs, I've seen very few physician members. Perhaps I should write to the AMA and suggest another way for doctors to be happy: be an Optimist.
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