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New year, new resolutions: an orthopedic surgeon’s path to balancing career and family in 2024

A recent discussion with a partner led us to list our academic goals for 2024.

It’s a process many of us go through each year. What did we accomplish throughout the year? Could we have done better? Is there more to do? How could we improve? What’s on tap for the upcoming year?

It’s an annual ritual, I know.

We reviewed his overall plan and went through how he could accomplish his professional “resolutions.” He was focused and singular in his approach. I was impressed, proud, and concerned.

As for me, I’ve learned that I’m hyper-focused on one area: I’ve always wanted to be at the top of my game and at the forefront of academics and clinical productivity. I also hope to be more active in writing articles like this one and getting published in journals, news media, and elsewhere.

I also want to be present for my patients, staff, and my family.

This is asking for a lot, and that’s why I sometimes worry about the cost associated with reaching this goal.

I went back and thought about the conversation I had with my partner and began to self-reflect. I wanted to learn more about exactly where I stood, where I was, and where I wanted to be.

Of course, I want similar success, but as I weigh the toll it takes to maintain this success, I wonder if it is worth it. I also wonder if there are other things that should be more of a priority.

With that, I set out to follow the “annual tradition.” I set out to create my set of New Year’s resolutions for 2024—for the orthopedic surgeon, for the physician, for the parents out there, the husbands, for anyone who wishes to try and better themselves.

Now my disclaimer is these may not apply to you. You may be better than me already, and if so, well done! Maybe you can teach me; maybe I can learn something from you. Please reach out, be friendly, and show me the way!

Here’s my list in no particular order:

Blinders, like a racehorse. Competition is good, but I hope to focus more attention on myself, my practice, my patients, and my family. I am going to try and focus less on the “Jones” and more on the Bittermans. Maintaining focus and keeping your eye on the prize isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Making the dream work. Team, team, the TEAM! There is no “I” in team for sure, but as the front person, I want to be certain to listen more closely to the feedback of my team. I want them to have a say in the operations of my practice. I want to hear their ideas and foster communication across all levels. Their feedback is worth paying attention to.

YOLO. I want to live! I want to explore. It’s important to understand and recognize that you only live once. Opportunities may arise, and they should be taken seriously and evaluated, but some are better than others. Prioritization is key. Understanding the importance of exploring new areas of interest is vital.

Open mind. Try new things – new surgical techniques when appropriate and routines both in the orthopedic arena and on a personal level. Never be afraid to hear other perspectives and learn new ways of being.

Patience. Stressful things arise at home, in the office, and at the hospital, and it is easy to rush to judgment. Barring an emergency, no one situation necessitates a knee-jerk reaction. As such, be sure to evaluate all sides and come to proper conclusions leading to the best decision.

Recognize that you can only control those things that are able to be controlled, BY YOU! Don’t stress the small things. Patients may misbehave outside of your control. There is only so much you can do.

Strong like a bull! It’s time to strengthen relationships with friends, colleagues, and most importantly, your family.

As a senior partner once mentioned and perfectly pointed out to me, the plaques on the wall don’t matter as much as the photos of memories with those who mean the most to you, do. Take the time to identify those who are closest to you and your family and make them a priority in your time away from the office or operating room.

Overall, I am hoping to stay focused and keep my eye on the prize. I don’t want anything getting in the way of productivity and furthering my career.

I want to continue doing great things—from a professional and personal standpoint.

How about you—what are your resolutions now that we’ve reached 2024?

Adam Bitterman is an orthopedic surgeon.

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