You Can’t “Should” Your Way Through Doctor Burnout

Ready for a touchy subject? Expectations.

Doctors and healthcare professionals are notorious for having high expectations. For themselves, their staff, their colleagues, their families. Even their patients.

What happens when an doctor’s expectation isn’t met?

We create a Should Storm.

“I should have known that surgery was going to take much longer.”

“I should have called my spouse to tell her I was going to be late.”

“I should have figured out this EMR stuff weeks ago.”

It gets a little worse when we put the onus on others.

“That patient should have known that it was important to take all her antibiotics.”

“My secretary should have been able to type that dictation faster/with fewer errors/yesterday.”

“My son should have made all A’s on his report card after I helped him with his homework all month.”

How to Stop the Should Storm? 

Speaker and author Byron Katie, who is best known for teaching a method of self-inquiry called “The Work,” suggests you challenge expectations before you believe them. Her inquiry begins with a series of questions:

  • Is it true?
  • Who says I should?
  • Where is it written that I should?

The key is self-awareness. First, you need to realize you are making up rules for yourself or others.

Sometimes these rules serve you; other times they make you frustrated.

The next time you start “shoulding,” try substituting the phrase It would be nice if …, instead. Try taking away the need for perfection for a moment.

Allowing your expectations to get you down on yourself or others is a form of abuse. It reveals a lack of trust.

And what does a lack of trust get you? More frustrated. More worried. More aggravated.

A Should Storm is really a form of guilt in action.

It doesn’t serve you or the ones you care for in any way.

It only sets up restrictions and places limits on behavior, whether it’s your behavior or someone else’s.

Let’s ditch the “shoulds.” For good.

CATEGORIES: Blog on November 11, 2014 by Starla Fitch, M.D.

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