Dr. Henry Li

“Adult patient to Alpha 1”. My ears pick up the familiar sound in the University of Alberta Hospital emergency department and I move to awkwardly excuse myself from the patient’s room that I’ve now tried assessing three times, having been interrupted each time by a patient coming into the resuscitation side of the department. As I finish my shift and head home, I log onto Connect Care to see which of my patients are being admitted or not. Now, two months out from July, I’m just starting to settle into my role as a resident physician

The start of residency was reminiscent of the start of medical school. I entered a new role with a fire hydrant’s worth of knowledge to be learned, an endless flurry of forms and tasks to be done, along with multiple calls for volunteers and to “get involved”. One email comes out asking for OSCE examiners. Another soon follows asking for help teaching medical students. Medicine has a propensity to engulf your life, if you let it, so over the course of our training, we each find our own way to balance our role as physicians and our life outside of clinical medicine. For many of us, coming home after a busy day, responding to one of these emails and taking on another commitment feels like the last thing we want to do.

At the same time, medicine is filled with countless opportunities. Whether it be administrative leadership, teaching or technology, I find myself constantly surprised by the variety of ways which we can get involved outside of clinical medicine. In all these areas, resident physicians are at the forefront of change, bringing forward innovative solutions and practices to our work.

Furthermore, when hearing the stories of physicians with long, fulfilling careers, common themes arise -- a desire to explore new interests, a knowledge of what matters most to them, and a willingness to push themselves outside of their comfort zones. Many of these stories started with a first step forward in a new area and have resulted in a lifetime of excitement, engagement, and satisfaction that has complemented their careers as clinicians.

Physician wellness research shows that we are most well when we spend a certain proportion of our time on work that we enjoy. It’s therefore not surprising that finding an area of interest and pursuing that can lead to improved work-life balance. Each of us has the potential to find our niche and be a leader in what we do and now is the best time to explore new interests. You never know which email is going to lead to your lifelong passion. All I know for sure is that throughout the next five years, I’ll keep opening my emails with an open mind, even when I’d much rather take naps on the couch or binge TV shows.

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