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Radha Samson got back to her office, looked at her watch, and realized that by delaying her departure another 45 minutes, she would avoid much of the homebound traffic. Instead of leaving right then, she would go and work out at the gym in the Sub-Acute Care Facility attached to the new building. This would accomplish several goals. Radha would get:

  • The chance to see the new back machines that had just been installed at the request of staff physical therapists.

  • The opportunity to do real exercise beyond walking from building to building; she needed to build up strength for the upcoming citywide 5K race in which the hospital was fielding a team.

  • The opportunity to take a mental break from her daily schedule.

  • The chance to think about what she was going to say to her son, Anan, about the car when she got home for dinner; earlier that day he had sent excited text messages about "needing" it to drive to Disneyland, with friends she assumed, and she did not like the thought of it at all.

Radha pulled her gym bag from the bottom drawer of her desk and sat back for a moment to text to her son, Anan:

Be home in an hour, w/ pizza. Don't forget to feed the dog. Talk then.

Then she grabbed her bag and headed for the gym. Radha was following her self-prescribed plan to avoid burnout.

Medical professionals are often attracted to their careers because of early personal experiences. Radha, for example, had wanted to become a doctor ever since she had watched her grandmother die a painful death from lung cancer. When she was growing up, her grandmother lived with her family, so Radha had watched the sincere but eventually futile efforts of care providers to help her grandmother breathe with less difficulty. Also, she had seen the desperate efforts of the doctors when she was eventually hospitalized. Kim Brown became a nurse because of family tradition in the healthcare field. Drew Thompson's younger brother had died of cystic fibrosis. The examples are many. The result is legions of extremely dedicated and hardworking care providers who are highly motivated to make health care better for patients and providers.

The downside, as many readers will recognize, is that along with the passion to make a difference comes a tendency to become so involved in the practice of "doing good" that you lose track of your own needs. As a result, you may harbor a judgmental attitude toward anyone who doesn't share your drive and tendency to overwork. It may also lead to mental and/or physical exhaustion. Then, of course, you are no good to anyone, including your family and friends; these are your shadow participants that we spoke about in Chapter 12 who are affected by conflicts and the issues that you face. ...

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