Thursday, May 5, 2011

Becoming an Iron Doc

Patricia Lindholm, MD,
2010-2011 MMA President
I would like to recommend a book called IRONDOC: Practical Stress Management Tools for Physicians, by Mamta Gautam, M.D., who is a psychiatrist and is known in Canada as “the Doctor’s Doctor.”  She works exclusively in the area of Physician Health and helps doctors care for themselves so they can care for their patients.

The title IRONDOC is an adaptation from Iron Man athletic competitions. For example, in the book Gautam offers 20 training tips (to deal with stress) which are like athletic drills. In addition, the book offers several chapters on the biopsychosocial factors that lead to unhealthy stress in physicians.  The reader is in the position of being “on the couch” of a skilled diagnostician.  Gautam adeptly outlines the common personality traits and defense mechanisms of physicians. 

Next she discusses the five early warning signs of stress and then the syndrome of burnout.  To overcome these obstacles, she develops the concept of the iron doc who is highly skilled in multiple areas, but not the best in every area.  So often we insist that we must be the best at all things, which is of course impossible.  If we are not the best, the thinking goes, then we are not good enough, or even worse, we are failures. 

Another aspect of this book I liked is that it is the size of one of those pocket manuals that we used to carry around in our white coat during training years (anyone remember the Harriet Lane handbook?).  The chapters are concise and the advice quite practical.  At the end of the book she recommends various resources the reader can consult for more depth in specific areas.

To see my other recommendations, visit the MMA’s new physician well-being page. We will be continually updating the site, so keep coming back!

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