I believe doctors and healthcare providers not only have medical superpowers, but ones that go beyond the medical realm.
Don’t think you have any?
Are you in family practice, internal medicine, cardiology, anesthesia, emergency medicine, or surgery? If so, I’ll bet you carry a stethoscope around your neck or in your lab coat that enables you to magically translate mere sounds into treatment strategies.
You take something that other people can’t fathom and shape it into everyday presence.
When you hear a heart murmur, you know that the next step needs to be an echocardiogram for further evaluation.
When you hear coarse or absent breath sounds, you know it’s time to dig deeper with a chest x-ray.
When you hear the gurgling of normal bowel sounds after surgery, you breathe a sigh of relief because you know your patient’s healing is headed in the right direction.
My superpowers are revealed every time I use the fun equipment afforded to ophthalmologists. At the slit lamp, I deploy a portable microscope that reveals blood in the front of the eye, elevated intraocular pressure, a laceration of the cornea, or an irregular lid lesion.
The indirect ophthalmoscope, combined with a 20 Diopter lens, is the most magical of all. To the uninitiated, it appears to be a coal-mining headlamp and a round glass lens. When I use this with children, I tell them I am looking for rainbows in their eyes. My lens directs the bright light to reveal retinal abnormalities, tumors inside the eye that could be life threatening, or bleeding in front of the retina the could obscure the patient’s vision.
Each of us has a Superpower Toolkit that helps us get below the surface of patient problems and evaluate the next, best course of action.
However, I’m not just talking about those types of superpowers.
How about that twinge in your gut when you can tell a patient is holding back something important? Or times when your senses tell you your patient or family member is overly anxious about what you just said? Or when you know a tissue specimen you sent to the pathology lab will not turn out well?
Those instincts that you often take for granted are surely superpowers, too. Perhaps they’re even more so than the ones that are aided by our fancy 21st-century equipment.
I believe it’s time we acknowledge the superpowers we use to hone in on what really brings our patients to the office or the emergency room.
It’s easy to ignore our superpowers.
After the longest-day-ever in the O.R., we can easily second-guess ourselves when we decide on the proper post-op course. Or when we grudgingly agree with a colleague’s opinion of how to proceed on a complicated procedure even if we are not in true alignment with their plan.
Every day we use our superpowers. Big and small. At home, in the office, in the O.R. And when we fully acknowledge these strengths and engage them, we begin to soar.
Maybe your superpower is listening and truly hearing what your patient, your staff, and your colleague have to say.
Maybe it’s the way your hands deftly move during surgery, as if you’re a concert pianist who has played that song hundreds of times.
Maybe it’s the ripple effect your compassion has on your patients’ lives.
Today, I encourage you to honor and embrace your superpowers. Expand them. Applaud them.
I’d love to know what your superpower is. Please share with us in the comments below.