Social challenges are as tough and engrained as ever. With the increasing strain on health and care services, the mantra ‘more for less’ has become deafening and, on occasion, paralysing. In this intimidating context it remains just as important but altogether harder to ask the important question, how can we help change the way our society works to better serve the most disadvantaged?
It is a commonplace assertion that society, the economy and public services face unprecedented challenge: from demographic pressures to a stuttering economy; to critical workforce shortages and developments in technology that outpace our ability to harness them for public good. In order to survive (let alone thrive) we must change; work differently, think differently, live differently.
But all change is not necessarily a good thing. And not all new things turn out to be that ‘new’ after all. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (das Kind mit dem Bade ausschutten), has been a German catchphrase for 500 years. In seeking out productive change there might also be things to retain, adapt or even revisit from the past.
I haven’t always loved being a doctor. Too often during my training, I left work wondering how I could drum up the enthusiasm needed to return to work the next morning. Long hours on call, constantly rotating to new wards and clinics, and the sense of futility I felt was intense. There were moments when I would look at the patients on my rounds and briefly wish I could trade places, just for a chance to lie down for a second.
Looking back at those days, it’s clear to me I was struggling with symptoms of burnout. It felt incredibly lonely, and yet I know that so many of my colleagues felt the same way. Far too many still do.