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Willingness to Adapt

By Peter Casey, MD

As hand and upper extremity surgeons, we spend countless hours of our lives trying to perfect our craft in order to provide our patients with the best care possible. During this training it is easy to focus solely on our careers and overlook our roles outside of the workplace. Over the years, I found the same lessons we work so hard to learn in the operating room and clinic also apply to family life. I have learned as much about how to be parent or spouse from my hand surgery mentors and peers as I have about being a hand surgeon. Trading stories on potty training or how to travel with an infant can be just as rewarding to your future as how to place your distal radius plate.

The most important lessons I have learned during my early career in regards to family have centered around prioritizing my life both inside and outside the walls of the hospital. I first realized this during my fellowship interviews where I was forced to focus on my priorities in life when answering the question “where do you see yourself in ten years?” for two months straight.  While I love playing golf, I do not think I mentioned being a scratch golfer once in two months. My answer always centered around making sure that my family is in a place where we are enjoying life and can fulfill our full potential of our family and career goals.

Prioritizing and focusing on your time outside of work is vital. In the Zoom era, work and learning can be overwhelming. We are now expected to be accessible and available for meetings at all hours whether at the hospital or not. There are endless resources available for training at all hours of the day. Carving out time for your family and unplugging from our computers and EMR is important. In our family we always make sure to be present for our daughter’s bedtime. We try to spend 30 minutes before bed every night reading books as a family and reflecting on what we are thankful for that day. This is the time of the day that is most important to our family and gives time to bond and grow closer as a family.

The last thing that I have taken from hand surgery and applied to raising a family is always be willing to learn and adapt. Just as we have to stay up to date with literature in order to give our patients the best care, it is important to be flexible and adapt to new practices at home. Unfortunately this year of fellowship has separated our family for the year. While these are not optimal circumstances, we have learned to adapt. We eat dinner and read bedtime stories on video calls now. It certainly is not ideal but similar to the hands we operate on, the goal in our family is to do the best we can with tools we have.

Peter Casey, MD
Curtis National Hand Center Fellow

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