The Power of Appreciation


Dear emergency physicians,

I want to let you all know how much I appreciate you. You work extremely hard, you work when you're sick, you stay late to care for patients and each other, and you do so day in, day out (or night in/night out as the case may be). You miss family events, you miss sleep, you miss exercise, and you miss nutritious meals in order to keep putting your jobs high up on your priority list.

For that I appreciate you. Thank you.

Maybe you don't hear it enough. We're not someone's "main doctor." We don't tend to get holiday cards, cookies, or thank you notes from our patients, even those whose lives we save. We work in a fishbowl, and every decision we make is criticized and evaluated after the fact, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. We are pressured to perform at a high rate of efficiency with impeccable documentation skills and the ability to deliver service with a smile. Regardless of what might be going on in our personal lives, we have to leave it in the parking lot and show up ready to go at all times.

For that I appreciate you. Thank you.

It turns out that feeling appreciated is an incredibly important part of workplace (and life) satisfaction. We work hard and often what we hear is criticism and demands to improve. However, if you listen carefully you'll hear appreciation every day. It comes often in our jobs yet is so quiet that unless you're listening for it you may not hear it. It comes after many of our patient interactions. "Thank you." It seems so mundane, so small, such a trifle little statement. "Thank you." I used to think of it as the period at the end of the lengthy book I had just written, a signal to finally exhale, close the cover, and move on to the next tome.

Yet isn't this is the reason we went into medicine in the first place?

In reality, this wasn't the only reason I went into medicine, and especially emergency medicine. I was fascinated by the human body, by pathophysiology, and the adrenalin rush of saving lives. Yet twenty years in, the need for an adrenalin rush has waned, at least in the workplace. As practice pressures mount I'm finding that I'm needing to lean into patients more. What used to be the "gallbladder in room 3" is now morphing into a real human being with feelings and emotions. Surprisingly, when I allow my battle shield to loosen a bit, the connection with the patient actually gives me energy rather than sucks it out of me. Now I hear the "thank you." It's not so quiet anymore. It's not the period at the end of the book. It's the exclamation point. It's the reason I went into medicine, and I suspect that it may be the same for some of you.

For that I appreciate you. Thank you.