A Transformed Practice

-Written by Dr. Tejal Lathia

I recently started listening to a discourse on the Patanjali Yoga sutra at a friend’s suggestion. This is a text written by Maharshi Patanjali as a guidance to live life. This Sunday afternoon, the friend’s daughter asked me – “Do you think it will help you in your medical practice, your clinic?”

The sutra has already had profound impact on my practice and guidance such as this from the books I read, the work I do on myself as a person have led to a transformation in my practice. 

Different strokes for different folks: There is a beautiful passage in the yoga sutra which discusses how to deal with different people in our day to day life on the principles of – Maitri, Karuna, Mudita and Upeksha. Simply put, be friendly with people who are friendly. Have compassion for people who are overtly negative but stay away from them, do not get embroiled in their negativity. Be happy for happy people. Ignore evil or bad people, karma will take care of them. Don’t waste your time trying to teach them a lesson or right vs wrong. 

I use this in the clinic. Those who take my advice and follow what I tell them, we are friendly. Some patients are there to test your patience – demand quick fixes, accuse you of being “looters”, some come and give gyan that all doctors should do “Charity”, some tell me that I am an agent for pharmaceutical companies. In the past, I would have tried to plead my case or would have reacted in anger. Now, I simply leave the room and refund the money! 

Deal with each patient according to the energy they bring. 

Doctor as a role: This has been possibly my greatest learning after I started practice. All my life, I told myself that I was “born to be a doctor”. I also wanted to “help” people and “do good”. After reading the book – “A New Earth”, the scales fell of my eyes. I am a human being first and foremost. Being a doctor is a “ROLE” I play just like all the other roles I play – a wife, mother, daughter, friend. I am separate from this role. I could come off my high horse of practising a “Noble Profession” and understand that it a role like any other that I must play to the best of my ability without losing myself in the role.

 I earn money from this role.

 It is a service a provide from a science that I practice. 

I am dispensable. 

Choosing how I practice: This was my earliest lesson. When I passed my final exam and looked around me to understand what a successful practice is, I made the mistake of thinking that a busy practice is a successful practice. So, I spent my days rushing around from hospital to hospital seeing loads of patients, I was successful. But I felt tired, dispirited, and dissatisfied. Was this what success felt like? 

Serendipity and a higher power made my life collide with my spiritual teacher (as a patient). 

She showed me how to draw boundaries, how to attract the kind pf people I wanted to treat. I cut down the number of places I practised, I reduced the number of people I consulted a day. I affirmed that I want to see people who want to get better. 

Slowly, my love and enthusiasm for my profession re-emerged. I was happy and energetic even after 25-30 patients. I stayed within my “role”. I can show people the way, write good medicines and give good advice. Whether people followed it or not, was beyond my control though I had the best intentions for them.

This is the Bhagavat Gita in action – “Focus on your actions, the result is not up to you”.

The way we practice medicine has to evolve if doctors are to continue to do what they do well. Otherwise, anger, resentment, burn out and depression await us at the end of a long career. We must not regret that we didn’t pay attention to our other roles – of a friend, wife, mother, daughter and above all – our common humanity! 

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