05 November 2009

I Find Family Everywhere - Thank you Dr. Lee

To me, family is just about anybody who supports me to be the happiest, most productive and creative version of myself that I can be. Today I found that support from the attending neurosurgeon for with whom I have worked directly for the past two years. In fact, our anniverary, as it were, is this Saturday. Since that time I haven't received any raises or promotions at work, though I've received considerably more responsibilities and seen a steady decline in my morale.

Today was the first day I was excited at work in a really long time. I attended a meeting of surgical coordinators and was able to give input on how to make both my job and my patients' experiences more efficient and pleasant. I was working on a particularly dynamic plan that would coordinate the care of multiple departments to expedite the patient's visit and require them to make fewer stops in their pre-surgical consultation and testing day. Considering that 40% of my patients have metastatic cancer to the brain with a few years or even months to live, I'm thinking that reducing the amount of time that they spend in doctor's offices, particularly performing redundant registration procedures for multiple departments who after ten years can't agree to unify their fucking computer systems, would be a good thing. Aside from this I think that creative problem solving is a very creative (as the name would imply) practice and while I'd rather be screenwriting, it's a hell of a lot more interesting than editing and printing medical dictations in an inefficient system which, by the by, could use a hell of a creative overhaul of its own.

Not only was my idea pretty get groovy but, miracle of miracles, multiple administrators in the nation's oldest hospital (officially), located in the country's angriest and most stagnant city (unofficially), were absolutely all about my idea and how to make it work. I take it back to my office manager and she immediately shoots it down. She talks red tape. She talks extending myself beyond what is "my job." Apparently, dynamic creative problem solving to increase the patient experience is not part of my job in healthcare. She pointed out that I'm already stretched to thin. I pointed out that this was because she gave me someone else's job to do one day every week and gave that employee no other responsibility. We were getting nowhere fast and my first enjoyable day at work in almost a year was sinking fast.

As soon as Dr. Lee wrapped up a meeting I popped into his office to lay it all on the line - I recently reapplied for school and would be happy to continue working for him part time if he would get behind me having a more interesting task of changing the way things are run rather than putting together charts because the girl at the front desk is too lazy to and doesn't really care when dying patient's lose their medical records. I went on to point out my intelligence, my creativity, and the ways both were being wasted.

He took it right from the little question of could he and I band together to reverse the inertia and lack of care in a broken health system to provide a better patient experience to what did I really want. We talked about going back to school just for the sake of learning, which I've missed terribly, and the fact that I am taking acting classes and building a film resume. He mentioned an interview with an actor that he'd seen where the actor said that said aspiring actors should study no other skills because then they'd fall back on those and not pursue their dreams. Mind you, I've been trying to have just such a conversation with my parents for well over a decade, not because I need their approval per se, but because we love one another and they don't need to understand me or how my value system differs from theirs to unconditionally support me and believe that I was going to be OK, which they don't do or believe.

Dr. Lee then moved on to some of his own feelings of frustration and anger and raising his voice and arguing with other people and how it stemmed from a feeling of a lack of control and how my anger was basically coming from the same place. I agreed and was talking about how it's frustrating because I don't want control in a maniacal or power hungry way, but in the sense that my intelligence and creativity are recognized and I am therefore given the freedom to exercise them to the best of my ability and to the highest benefit of my patients. And then the really cool thing happened. He was talking about how when he was in the OR and far from office politics and phone calls that everything just melted away and he was in his element, removing brain tumors or evacuating subdural hematomas. I concurred and shared that I felt the same way acting a scene. The greater beauty of the moment was in recognizing that there are so many ways of finding our Zen space or Tao space or happy, centered, joyfully fulfilling our potential space. The world needs neurosurgeons and the world needs actors and those people need surgery or acting or any other imaginable profession, hobby or spiritual practice to carve out the moments in the day when it feels like every molecule in your body leaps from jumbled dissonance into a sudden an utter exaltation which, if heard, would be like the most glorious and resounding symphony in the history of people having the ears to hear such things.

I feel so liberated. If he wanted to help me stay and work part time and do only the parts of my job that I enjoy then I'd have an excuse to stay in a toxic work environment and try to sidestep the horseshit while I'm going to school full time and taking acting classes and rehearsing and taking all of my vacation time for film work. Instead, he asked me what I want. Then he listened. Then, he told me I should pursue that and be non-negotiable in achieving it. That may not seem like a big deal but when you're 25 and a college drop out, it's a rare experience. On one hand it might seem unlikely that my big supporter for going into the arts would be an Ivy League educated neurosurgeon. Then again, maybe the audacity to root around in someone's brain and the audacity to say you're in acting for real (and for nothing less than an Oscar) aren't so terribly different. Now I know that when my acceptance letter comes and my loans line up that I'll be writing a two line resignation to management and a very heartfelt thank you to Dr. Lee
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