Gods and men.

I’ve written before about the surge in motivation felt through a moving conference. In this moment that is entirely me. I’ve just made my biggest conference trip to date, charging off to Chicago for the Social Media and Critical Care (SMACC) conference. Now I’m not a devotee of social media but I certainly am of critical care and with SMACC US now done and dusted I’ve learnt an enormous amount and am high on motivation.

But for what am I motivated? That’s the tricky bit.

I can’t pretend to have the skills, knowledge, or experience of those I sit with in the rooms at a conference like this. My use as a doctor isn’t worth a single one of Cliff Reid’s hairs. Sure I can talk to patients reasonably well and I can manage a cannula. But as a third yed student no I haven’t intubated someone, no I haven’t popped in a quick central line, no I will not keep my cool as that first big trauma case rolls towards me. So what is the difference between these people and me? And what can I offer now?

I write today about the difference between gods like them and men like me. I write about my motivation to shrink this gap, and how I plan to do it.

Before I go further I need to set a framework for what I want to achieve. Which questions do I want to answer, or at least explore? For instance, what is ‘god-like’ about these people? What on earth do I mean by that and what is it in them I want to emulate? Further, what is this difference I’m seeing and how on earth do I shrink it? How do I, as a man in a novice state, become a god like that? Is that what I even want, is it even achievable?

This is certainly a can of worms, I will do my best to keep it brief.

Some clarification first, what do I mean by God? To me, these men and women are the epitome of all I see good doctors being. They are, as some would say, brave and bold. They show courage to do what others cannot do while striving to involve and educate those around them. They are fallible, and at the times they do err, they are open, honest and reflective. They strive for perfection, analyse error and unrelentlessly pursue improvement. Importantly, they are not cocky and they do not see themselves as gods, they are human. I want to be like that.

Next, what is this difference between these god-like figures in the world of critical care and those like me, those in the early days? What do I lack that these others have? In a simple sense the difference is time and it’s experience. Looking a little deeper, it’s all the things that this time and experience will provide. It’s a difference that is critical. Both for patient care and for clinician recognition. It is a difference inevitably related to knowledge, skills and understanding but beyond that, it’s the difference in orientation that thousands of patients hours provides. Malcolm Gladwell spoke of ten thousand hours, I expect it might be many more than that in this field.

Here is our snag and my task. Here is the source of the frustration and the point of acceptance. Through the recognition that time is the difference, or at least part of it, I realise that I’m a long way off. Welcome the frustration. But the flip side here is the further recognition that I cannot control this time difference. I can’t, and shouldn’t, fast forward this time nor my expectations. I do not need to be able to do these things yet and to expect them is unfair and unrealistic. Even projecting forwards, I see that there is no need to rush. The sooner you reach the top of the pile the quicker you cut yourself off from further learning and development. To take your time is to enable potential, to build a bigger base. Acceptance.

The follow-on from accepting the time differential is that I can set a framework for the future. A framework that will provide goals and a vision. One that can help me map my attitudes towards life, learning and experience. I may choose to pinch elements of this framework from the gods on stage at SMACC. I can’t have their skills but I can utilise their approach, I can emulate their attitudes, and I will bear witness to their humility.

At the close of SMACC 2015 I am indeed motivated. I’m motivated to pick and choose the traits of those I admire. I’m motivated to experience, to learn, to live. I can’t fast forward my years of experience to come, nor do I want to, and so I will accept where I am now and chart a course for where I want to be. See you along the way.