What is the point, you could ask, of doing anything positive, or altruistic? Is there any point in doing something out of the ordinary and free of charge if there is no reward of any sort. As creatures we are wired up for reward, for dopamine-mediated impulses that feed a desire for pleasure and satisfaction. Is that what drives talented people, and doctors in particular to write, unsolicited and financially unrewarded, for medical journals, blogs and in social media?
Do we crave the reward of retweets, likes, favourites, replies, comments, views and re-blogs? Do we need these, things or do we convince ourselves that we are performing a cathartic act that is of no consequence to anyone but ourselves?
For example, what’s the point in getting five publications in an international journal which is delivered to 45,000 clinicians, for the encouragement and appreciation of just 3 emails/responses. That’s potentially 200,000 readings for just 3 people to think it is worth typing a thank you. My, for it is I, dissatisfaction with this could be due to a number of things:
I am too needy and too expectant of praise
Doctors don’t actually read this journal
The vast (understatement) majority of doctors don’t like what I write
There is not a culture of encouragement amongst doctors
To some degree I expect that all of the above are correct. I’m going to be honest. I need feedback, I need encouragement, I need to know that I am heard, I need to be appreciated. I am a rather needy person. Amateur (and professional) psychologists would have a field day. When I write, I am saying, “Come look at this thing that I have made with my brain and hands, I cradled it for a while and now I have brushed off the dust and blown away the rough edges and fashioned it into something understandable and appreciable. So go ahead and appreciate. Look what I have done for you…” Perhaps that’s why I give sneak previews of my new articles to people I know will like them. Perhaps I need therapy.
In this time-pressured world it is possible that medical journals stay in their wrappers, from cradle to grave, or find a new home in a magazine rack or coffee table before making their way to the recycling before being opened. Nothing much I can do about that I guess.
If people don’t like what is accepted by the journal then perhaps the editors need to change their policy on accepting pieces. Or perhaps I just need to write better to appeal to more doctors, or more inflammatory to provoke a response, any response to just to be sure that I exist in the world of words.
What I am hoping is that my lack of encouragement is merely a symptom of a society that is worried of appearing too much like our American cousins. I’m hoping that there is a realisation that in order for doctors to carry on doing good things, and I’m not just talking about poems and publications, but looking after their patients in the face of adversity, blame, financial pressure and unrealistic expectation, that we need to be encouraged by one another. We need to be told that we are doing something good and that we are appreciated.
Realising that I needed encouragement made me reflect on how much I failed to encourage the colleagues and community around me. So, for the last few weeks I have tried to make sure that I give feedback to doctors who are publishing stunning blogs and articles in medical journals, giving credit where credit is due. I’m hoping to be the change the culture, one small email or tweet at a time. Feel free to join in.