Strength of heart

Strength of heart

You're the heart of your hospital. Making changes to get fit, eat healthy, and work smart will take courage and resolve, but we know you've got it in you.
Feb 01, 2008

IT CAN TAKE A CRISIS TO COMPEL PEOPLE TO CHANGE. And it often comes down to the heart. The lifeblood of your practice pumps right through you. A clinic full of happy patients, grateful clients, and dedicated team members get their inspiration and loyalty directly from you—but they won't if you don't take care of yourself, especially your own heart. Consider the fictional but all-too-common case of Janet Smith, DVM.

Dr. Smith has neglected her family and health for years in order to fulfill her self-imposed obligations to her profession. Now, at age 47, she finds herself staring at the ceiling of an intensive care unit after suffering a mild heart attack. She vows to turn things around this time. She'll change her diet, exercise regularly, and spend more time relaxing with her family. She'll take control of her schedule and make sure she and her team leave the clinic on time. She'll stop working 60 hours a week and doing paperwork every Sunday morning. She won't carry the guilt imposed on her by clients who demand too much. She says she's ready. It's time to change who she is.

The bottom line: Good health for all
The problem is, the odds are stacked against her. According to Dr. Edward Miller, dean of the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, 90 percent of patients who undergo coronary-artery bypass grafting haven't changed their lifestyle two years later.

The challenge of change isn't limited to huge lifestyle alterations. Doctors often find themselves resisting change as well when it comes to their protocols, medications, and technologies. We often resort to an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. But just because something isn't broken doesn't mean it can't be improved. Change is a vital component of any healthy entity (whether a business or a person). When it stops changing, it stops living.

Why is this? Why don't people make changes even when their lives or businesses hang in the balance? We all know why. It's hard.

But I don't feel better

Real-life example: Control the clinic clock
One of the most powerful drugs used to treat heart disease is a small pill taken once a day: a statin. But the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology reported the following results of a massive study: Of 37,000 patients receiving statins, nearly all patients took the drug during the first two months. A year later, only 20 percent to 33 percent were taking the statin, even though it had been prescribed to them for the rest of their lives. For many, this proved to be a fatal mistake. Even former President Bill Clinton stopped taking his statin and ended up undergoing quadruple bypass surgery. What could possibly be easier than popping a pill a day?

One of the reasons people in the study stopped taking their statin was that they didn't feel anything. You don't feel healthier or stronger on this medication. You don't feel the waxy cholesterol plaque disappearing. You feel fine and decide the tiny pills aren't worth the bother. If you're lucky like President Clinton, in a couple of years you'll be recovering with a six-inch scar to remind you to take your pill. If you're not so lucky, you won't need to worry about taking any pills—ever.

If we won't take a little pill once a day, it goes without saying that other life changes are even harder. We know that 60-hour workweeks, stress-filled days, and an unhealthy diet aren't good for us. The problem is, we continue to let our environment direct us instead of taking control of our environment. We feel powerless and accept that "this is the way things are." But when we abandon the ability to control our lives and work, we stop controlling our destiny.