Learn it All

One of my frustrations in life at the moment is committing to listen to a podcast episode only to find out that it’s a bit of a dud. It doesn’t happen all that often, but yesterday it did. There was one redeeming minute though. A minute that contained two phrases that struck me.

The first:

Don’t be a know it all, be a learn it all

Followed up quickly by

What you needed to get you here isn’t what you need to get where you want to go

Like real gold, 1 minute of insight made getting through the other 60 minutes totally worth my while.



Growth Hurts

I’m sitting here in a comfortable position on the couch avoiding getting up for an inevitable trip to the bathroom. Why? Because of delayed onset muscle soreness, that’s why.

If you read yesterday’s post you will be aware that I have recently reinitiated my running career. Only, my body hasn’t quite caught up with my aspirations yet.

Growth is good for us, but it can hurt. And that’s ok. Discomfort doesn’t have to be avoided, it can lead to something good.

Getting un-stuck

This time last year there was no way that I could run 5km without stopping. Maybe it was just a change in heart, maybe it was because I’m coming up to turning 40, but I made the decision to do the couch to 5k program and pretty soon I was running 5km multiple times a week. I got up to doing a 10km run which I felt pretty good about. But I only did it once. I got complacent, quick.

I could make excuses about hayfever season and stuff like that, but honestly, this is classic behaviour for me. Throw myself into something to learn enough about it so that I can prove I can do it, and then let it wither over time or abandon it altogether. I get into ruts pretty quickly with things. I wouldn’t say I’m getting any better at avoiding them, but I am getting better at noticing that I’m in one and building some sort of structure to get myself out. If I want to of course. For some things, like cold process soap making, doing it a couple of times in my life time is quite ok with me.

But running is different. I really do enjoy it as a form of exercise and processing my thoughts. I never stopped doing it completely, but I have felt myself getting lazier and avoiding it more in recent times. So a re-jig was in order. Enter the Garmin training plan. I’ve got myself a virtual running coach. And it’s kind of fun, it’s changed things up a bit. I can still be lazy, of course, but there’s some level of accountability and challenge to do better. I like that. I know there are other options, like running groups and stuff like that, but running is a solo practice for me. So coaching it is.

As I think about this, I reflect on my post yesterday, about missing the professional development structure of the hospital environment. The healthy competitive environment where accountability and challenge are ever present. It was hard to stay in a rut when I was working in the hospital. There was always someone who was prodding me to do better, or a new challenge or opportunity opening up or job to apply for. But this isn’t how it is in the community-care sector. It’s so self-directed. So isolated. It takes some serious effort and self-reflection to keep growing professionally when no one’s really looking.

Take HMR/RMMR pharmacists for example. Everyone gets paid the same base rate, so long as you continue to get referrals and get through them at a rate that pays you a reliable wage then you’re doing ok. If the purpose of your work is to pay the mortgage then you’ll be fine with that. But if you’re looking for greater fulfilment in your work (e.g. have a more collaborative approach with GPs, take on more challenging cases, get involved in projects or teaching) or want to grow your business then you need to actively change things up. It’s not going to get gifted to you, you have to make it happen. You have to differentiate yourself by acquiring and developing skills and professional attributes. And it might not be that obvious how to do that if it’s sitting in your blindspot.

So what’s out there to help these people? From my personal experience and interactions with colleagues, I don’t think there’s anything that’s meeting these needs for the broader workforce. CPD points to meet registration criteria, sure, there’s tonnes of that. Support for early career development, there are many programs steered toward their needs. But we’re not all early career and we still need help with career development, and that’s totally ok.

I don’t know why it is this way that the focus seems to be so much on early career. Perhaps because it’s easier to get newbies ‘on the right path’ than it is to deal with disgruntled realists who are bordering on cynical. Well, bugger that. I mean, I’m obviously biased but I think us disgruntled realists have a lot to offer. We just haven’t got the right venue. Lets not wait for someone to gift this to us, lets build it ourselves.

Lets build somewhere that provides meaningful engagement with our peers where we can safely share our practice. Somewhere that values our contribution simply because we care about doing good work. Somewhere that offers a range of opportunities to challenge us to meet our goals and achieve greater fulfilment in our work.


Things I Miss About Hospitals…

It’s been just over six years since I worked in a hospital, and nine since working in a hospital pharmacy department. There are some things that I’m happy to be rid of (office politics, anyone?) but there are a few things that I really miss about that hospital work environment.

  1. Being part of a multidisciplinary team. One where there is an understanding of each others role in the team, their value and contribution. One where you treat each other as colleagues, regardless of your professional background.
  2. The ability to ask “what do you think about this…” to any number of readily available colleagues who you trust will provide some sound intellectual input. Not only can this validate your thoughts/give you confidence, but it also illuminates your blindspots. Both are good. Both make you a better professional.
  3. Learning from observing other people’s practice. Other pharmacists, doctors, nurses, allied health. You have so much opportunity within the hospital environment to understand other peoples roles and how they approach clinical decision making and patient care. Observe and appreciate differences. It provides such a deep learning experience if you’re open to it.
  4. Ease of communication. It’s pretty easy to get in touch with the people you want to talk with in a hospital. You can often even talk with them face to face. There’s a shared clinical record, network drives, staff directory, pagers…so many functional communication channels to take for granted.
  5. Professional development opportunities. I can’t say that I highly valued the concept of line management and annual reviews when I was working within the hospital system, but now that I’m out of it my opinion has changed. Having some guide rails and accountability can provide you with a lot of opportunity for growth and ultimately enable you to produce better work if you’re open to it, especially early on in your career.

Now I’m not saying that these things are entirely absent in community-based care settings, but they’re a lot harder to come by. Sure, we each have colleagues we can get in touch with to run stuff by, but it requires more effort and your network of peer support is more limited. Professional development rests heavily on the self-direction of the individual. Again, this can be ok when things are going well and you’re being challenged, but more difficult if you feel like you’re in a rut, having difficulties in your personal life or you’re simply not self-reflective. As for communication? Well, it’s just bloody hard work. So inefficient. So much time wasted. I mean faxes…do I need to say anything more than that?

I think there’s a pretty obvious opportunity to improve on where things are currently. And I don’t think I’m being idealistic in saying so.


Shipping It

It’s all well and good to know all the theory about the 80/20 effort and all that stuff. It’s another thing to actually put it into practice and accept that oftentimes, shipping something that is good at the right time is much better than shipping something that’s near perfect at the wrong time.

Yesterday I decided to start shipping. I’ve been working on this interdisciplinary online community for strengthening community based care for months now. I’ve talked to people about it and listened to their perspectives. I’ve engaged in other online communities. I’ve learned about business stuff. I’ve written copy for the site, set it up, started using it with a couple of colleagues. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to start. And I know I’ll never really know what works and what doesn’t unless I put it in front of people. Unless I risk failing and feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable.

So I shipped. I started inviting founding members. I will jump off the cliff and build the aeroplane on the way down.

And with that, Traversity has been born. Will it survive and grow to maturity? We shall have to wait and see how good I am at building aeroplanes!

What Ifs

Sometimes I come across children’s stories that make me think they were written for the parents. Arthur and the What Ifs is one of those stories.

A little guy named Arthur is filled with music but psychs himself out by thinking about the what ifs. What if he’s not good enough. What if people laugh at him. You get the idea. But the music is still inside him, it doesn’t go away.

One day Arthur gets a flyer for an open jam session and he again starts to think about the what ifs. But this time, for the first time ever they are good what ifs. What if it’s fun? What if he’s actually good?

This shift in mindset doesn’t solve all of his issues (this is a children’s story, not a fairytale) but it gives him enough confidence to fashion himself a disguise and join the jam session. He joins in and gets so consumed by the music that he doesn’t realise he is no longer in disguise and playing music out in the open where everyone can see him. And enjoying it. This leads to his new life of playing in the band, Arthur and the What Ifs.

How we talk to ourselves is so powerful and so hard to get past. Reframing sounds like such a load of jargonny bullshit. But what if it leads to something great? Isn’t it worth the experiment? I tend to think yes, it is.

Being Judgemental

I have a strong tendency to be a bit too judgemental and intolerant of others. Ive written about it before. Its something I’m consciously trying to improve. But I feel like there are some circumstances where it is still acceptable.

Take small children riding a scooter at speed on a footpath for instance. Make your kid wear a helmet for God’s sake! Didn’t you learn about the impact of heads hitting concrete curbs when Patrick died on Offspring?

And for a work related one, how about oxybutynin and donepezil all packed together nicely in a dose administration aid? Not good enough I think. We need to do better.