It wasn't the first time I've seen the concept, but about a month ago GruntDoc pointed out that he has a "work persona." He acts differently at work -- and among different people at work -- than he does at home or with his family and friends. Here's how his wife describes it:
Wife: "When I saw you first, you were on the telephone; I listened, and you were pissed. Then, when we talked you were your normal self, and then when you turned around you were pissed again."
Wife: "Yes, it was remarkable."
Then in response to this post of mine (about counseling an uncertain pregnant woman) Flea included this in the comments:
...It's an approach that I hope to take with me in my professional life (and perhaps other lives as well). But I hadn't thought of applying it to patient encounters.
These two comments make me realize anew something I have always thought of as one of my strengths as a physician (and as a person, for that matter): I am always the same.
Of course I speak and act differently in different kinds of situations and with different kinds of people. But the basic way I communicate with people is the same, whether I'm in an exam room with a new patient, a hospital room with a dying patient, or on the sidelines of the soccer field with the other parents. I have only one persona -- a flexible, almost chamelionoid one, granted -- with which I present to the world. I believe patients sense this, and it is the reason I have been told that I am "genuine."
I am not saying that GruntDoc and Flea are artificial, nor that their patients don't appreciate how they communicate. Not at all! Just that I believe I have integrated my various roles in life well enough so that different parts of my persona enhance, rather than subjugate. It also implies that I'm not afraid to share parts of myself and my experiences -- when appropriate, of course -- without fear of being thought "unprofessional." And that's the really interesting thing: somehow the idea of being "professional" and "genuine" have become separated.
An image that I used long before ever meeting Miliner's Dream was this: I don't wear many hats. I just wear one very large, elaborate one; one where all the pieces combine and enhance. (Cue the Las Vegas Showgirls hats.)