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Do The Unnecessary


The proficient doctor does the necessary. She greets the patient without shaking his hand. Examines him from head to toe without looking him in the eye. She’s alert to the slightest abnormal physical sign but doesn’t notice her patient shivering because the room is cold.

She taps information into the system and prints consent forms for the patient to sign. But she doesn’t acknowledge the fear in his eyes. She’s competent, efficient and some would say, good at her job. But if the patient comes away feeling like a collection of signs and symptoms instead of a human being, is she good enough?

A great deal of our work is about doing the necessary, meeting spec and making sure the client got what they paid for. But much of the skill and all of the joy in our work comes from doing the unnecessary—the things we’re not required to do. The acts that make our work meaningful to those we serve and to ourselves.

Image by Eugene Chystiakov

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