My home and office is full of art work done by the artists I have lived with over the last 30 years. My husband makes wonderful creations out of glass.
My younger daughter paints Georgia O’Keeffe-styled paintings for gifts and designed a beautiful canvas that sits behind my desk at work.
My older daughter designs programs for her medical school class and cards for her grandmothers. As a gift to me she drew a family portrait that captures each family member’s special character.
Surrounded by this talent, about five years ago I began to draw, hoping to do it well enough that my sketches would be recognizable in my journals, especially with travel. It’s been a slow painful journey but recently I began Sketchbook Skool, online classes founded by Danny Gregory, an artist I’ve admired for years. The first class began with an intimidating assignment – draw with a pen. The purpose of the exercise is learning to “live with the line”. Multiple times in the last six weeks I began a drawing and wanted nothing more than to tear it out of the book, get rid of the line and start the sketch over. But I had to persevere and since it was an assignment I kept working with it. Amazingly, as I continued with the drawing it would take shape and become something I really liked. My mistakes were not only livable, many times they were my favorite drawings when finished.
Porch Wall Hanging
There are corollaries to be made in healthcare–perseverance for example, of which most family practice doctors need a healthy dose of every day. But the acceptance of imperfection, is that even safe in medicine? How do you accept, even more, celebrate the difficulties of practicing medicine today, especially in primary care? With drawing it’s a matter of going beyond ignoring the line–it’s using it to “bend” the reality of a picture, thereby creating something that resembles the object but is different, still recognizable but different. The corollary in my practice is helping patients become participants by using tools like social media, whiteboards and smart phone apps. But I’m an apprentice artist compared to the DaVincis of medical care: The DPC movement with physicians like Dr. Robert Lamberts, and models like Turntable Health are “bending” healthcare practice to create better care for patients, and in the doing, taking physician practice to a point where it once again feels like Art.
Maybe it’s my German ancestry that makes me enjoy reading productivity blogs. My favorite is Asian Efficiency but there are others that cross my blogging path. Today I came across this article: Why Your Brain Can’t Handle an All-Day Schedule.
This is not the first time that I’ve read about loss of productivity in environments where people sit in front of a computer all day. But it lead me to thinking about physicians who practice in present day medical office environments where the pressure of productivity is all-encompassing. Even though my schedule is not nearly as demanding as many doctors, on those days where I see more than 18 patients I realize that it is not only my intellectual capacity that plummets, but more importantly, my empathy quotient takes a nose dive. Somewhere around 4 pm, or #17, I am pushing away the weight of all the unfinished tasks, unfilled prescriptions and forms sitting on my desk as I try to listen to a patient problem. Couple this with the continual interruptions while trying to finish notes and it becomes obvious why physicians lack creativity if they remain in the typical constraints of a normal medical office.
Over the last several years primary care physicians have been pushed to see more patients, adopt new skills, like EHR, with steep learning curves while keeping up productivity-an oxymoron if one ever existed. This while we accept less pay, keep up with continuing educational needs and remain supportive to spouses, children and often elderly parents. If you add up the hours involved in just doing the above there is little space for exercise, reading, mediation or any other “leisure” activities that give life deeper meaning.
It is little wonder the creative element is lost on doctors.
Let’s hope new models of reimbursement, EHR’s that truly help us take care of our patients, Medical Social Media, improving patient advocacy and better models of care give physicians back some time–and with it, the creative art of medicine.