Do You Have A Secret Drawer?

In my office the other day, I was running on time (hurray!) and had a few extra minutes to visit with one of my patients.

As we swapped stories about what’s going on in our worlds, I mentioned my passion for helping doctors love medicine again. I told her I hoped it would help with physician burnout.

As a teacher with years of experience, my patient knows a thing or two about burnout. She shared a tip that might help us doctors, too.

She told me about The Secret of the Bottom Right Desk Drawer.

Over the years as a teacher, many of her students have sent her gifts of acknowledgement and thanks. She’s received loving notes from children; a postcard from a college student, thanking her for all she taught him about English grammar; an email from a parent, letting her know the extra effort she had shown their child was appreciated.

She saves all these treasures in her bottom right desk drawer.

At the end of each semester, she gets a cup of tea, opens her bottom right desk drawer, and savors the memories of all the wonder tucked inside those notes.

On those dark days when she feels frustrated with her work, she returns to her desk and opens that bottom right desk drawer.

She closes her eyes and picks out a note at random, like drawing gems from a treasure chest.

She sits back and slowly reads the message of love and gratitude, and reminds herself of why she became a teacher in the first place.

I love this story.

I have started my own practice of saving my treasures in my bottom right desk drawer.

When I get an email from an overwhelmed surgical resident, thanking me for the lifeline one of my blog posts has given her, it goes in the drawer.

When one of the doctors I’m coaching has an “aha moment” and brims with new inspired zest for their practice, a note of that conversation goes in the drawer.

When one of my patients reminds me of why I went to medical school, it goes in the drawer.

Pick a drawer. A basket. A box.

I’ll bet you can even think of two things right this minute that could go in that drawer.

Take the time.

Start the practice.

It’s a good first step to acknowledging how special you truly are to the world of medicine.

Next, go to the Comment section below and share one of your stories.

You’ll be surprised at how great it makes you–and your colleagues–feel to share the love.

CATEGORIES: Blog on March 31, 2014 by Starla Fitch, M.D.

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9 thoughts on “Do You Have A Secret Drawer?

  1. Julieta

    I keep repeating this to my staff: collect “trophies” , so in bad days you can watch them and shift your energy to a positive state.
    Thanks for this sweet story, I will pass it on.

  2. Susan Ortiz

    Great tip. We tend to under-emphasize the praise we get from patients, so making a collection of “trophies” to focus on during wobbly times is fantastic. The emphasis in medical training is always on what you did wrong, so it is hard wired in most docs to be self-critical. Thank you Dr. Starla for all you do to help us focus on our strengths.

    1. Starla Fitch, M.D. Post author

      Dr. Susan, thank you. What a good point that during our training, we get wired to be self-critical. It’s what makes us try harder, to be sure. But, it also can make us feel “less than.” We need to be our own biggest fans, rather than our harshest critics. Note to self. 🙂

  3. Stefan

    Thanks Starla for your great posts. I hope you’re keeping them to put into an e-book later. Just wanted you to know that the ones that strike “the need that” cord in my mind and heart are saved in my Dr. Starla Fitch File. What you are saying with your stories is needed even outside the medical community. Thanks

    1. Starla Fitch, M.D. Post author

      Dear Stefan, I’m grateful for your kind words and glad to hear my words are helping. Often our patients and our families are not fully aware of our world. When we pull back the curtain, we can see we are all in this together. My book, Remedy for Burnout: 7 Prescriptions Doctors Use to Find Meaning in Medicine, is at the publishers and will be ready soon. I was lucky to be able to do hour long interviews with doctors who are heartfelt. I can’t wait to share their wisdom. Please let me know how I can best help you and your friends as we continue to learn to love medicine again. Thanks again.

  4. Lindsey P

    I have one of those drawers! I had an angry patient write me a terrible letter one time and although it seemed as if that one letter erased all those amazingly heartfelt notes in my special drawer, the time that I spent reading and rereading all the thoughtful and gracious notes from my patients really helped me get through that hard time.

    1. Starla Fitch, M.D. Post author

      Lindsey, thanks for sharing! I’m surprised to hear how many of us have secret drawers or files that we call upon to cheer us. We’ve all gotten those mean-spirited letters, too. They do still bother me, I must admit. But, I try to dispense with them and the negative energy they bring quickly. And they are never allowed secret drawer space. Life’s too short!

  5. Pingback: 5 Ways Happy People Avoid Burnout - Starla Fitch MD

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