Sunday, June 10, 2012

Physician: Heal Yourself!

I recently saw an ad for one of the medical VIP services that read,

Healing Others Shouldn't be Killing You.”

A “choking” visual created by a stethoscope looped around itself pulled me in, triggering flashbacks of my career as a physician. I remembered practicing as an Air Force officer with competing authorities - the military rank system and the medical hierarchy – which proved impossible to reconcile at times! During my second year in that challenging job, I fell on my knees one night and prayed, “Lord, I need You. If You are real, please reveal Yourself to me!”

He did, and my life has never been the same again.

When I gave my heart to Christ, He began to transform it, changing me as a mother, as a wife, and as a doctor. God is faithful to answer our prayers to know Him. And when we give Him our brokenness, He gives us life; what an exchange!

As I picture the loops around the choking stethoscope, I recognize that many physicians and caregivers feel like this right now. Squeezed in from every direction. Stretched to the max. Spent. And they feel this way right as they head for the door to see their next patient.

In a recent study of 1,195 physicians from various specialties, “nearly one-third of physicians responding to the survey indicated that they will want to leave medical practice after health reform is implemented.” One out of every three! I know of an office that recently lost three doctors in less than nine months. They all left for the same reasons. They had no joy in their work, little control over their days, and felt that they couldn't provide excellent care with the time constraints and other obstacles they face daily. In medicine, less is rarely more.

We need well-trained, compassionate team members as well as adequate resources and time to care for people with significant problems. The right fit is hard to find, and many never find it. For me, finding the right fit meant that I had to change, too, and learn to think outside the box. I chose to start working as an independent contractor, which has afforded me the flexibility to pursue God's call on my life as a pastor's wife, mother, author, speaker, and doctor. Joy has returned to my work, and I see myself as a servant in healthcare. 

Although the changes in my professional life have been life-giving, they came at a price. I've had to embrace a non-traditional model that others may not choose for themselves. Yet, in Galatians 1:10, Paul challenges our perspective and reminds us to consider our motives. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?... If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

These days, my joy and peace come from knowing that my choices are pleasing to God, and that is all I need.

No, helping others shouldn't be killing us. That is not God's will for His servants. Healing others is, in fact, life-giving when we do it with Jesus and to please God. I think many of us do it for Jesus but not necessarily with Him. This gap can be bridged through daily, intentional choices involving prayer, meditating on God's Word, adoring Him in worship, and through meaningful conversations with colleagues about the Lord and what He's doing in our personal and professional lives. The closer we walk with Him, the more He works through us, and He is a God of healing.

Are you working for Jesus on your own? There is a better way! Organizations like the Christian Community Health Fellowship can come alongside you as you work for the Lord in healthcare. If in doubt, ask yourself, is this God's will for my life, for my family, and for my patients? Ask Him to help you discern and prioritize your days around His agenda for your life, and resolve to make every necessary change – with His help – to remain aligned with His perfect will.

Dr Mari 

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