I know of no studies that formally compare the capacity of doctors to adapt to change relative to members of other disciplines, but all around me I see physicians discouraged by the demands of contemporary medical practice. So, I’ll propose that we are more change averse than other professionals, which of course begs the question: Why?
If our training in medical school and graduate educational programs has us moving through a set of rotations at high speed that should be perfect flexibility training, all would be well. But what if the experiences provoke rigidity not flexibility? Does each rotation leave us as depleted as a sprinter at the end of 100 meters, hands on knees desperately sucking for air? We’re reminded that this is all temporary, to hang in there, soon we’ll be at the final finish line, and will call the shots and set the tempo. Except, more than ever, there is no finish line.
Or, as I search for an alternate metaphor, are we like plants forced to produce a bloom earlier than Mother Nature deemed good for us? Having lost our pliability early, we’re never the same thereafter. Rigid, rather than flexible, we break not bend with the wind.
Is a pre-selection process also at play? What if beneath the swagger we are needier than we realize? How many of us enter medicine less out of altruism than a need to be needed? As we evolve in our disciplines we lay down certain paradigms by which we operate professionally. If meeting our needs is a primary rather than a secondary return from our work, then we may react adversely when we feel this need thwarted.
If change is hard for us all, it may be particularly tough on a profession rendered change-weary by its demanding educational and training programs and further subjugated by a barrage of change imposed by external forces over the past 20 years.