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The power of Thankfulness

Posted Friday 27 November 2020

As I mentioned on a recent In Real Life episode, the new BNF (British National Formulary) made its way into my consulting room this week. For those of you not familiar with the BNF, it’s essentially the drug handbook to guide you in prescribing any medicine in the UK. It’s a GP’s best friend, vital in being able to check correct doses, drug interactions and side effects. Over the years it has served thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians.

When I was training as a GP registrar, one of my non-medical friends referred to it, asking me “Have they let you have the Big Book of Medicines yet?” He was of the opinion that all of my medical training merely prepared me to look things up in this secret manual of doctoring that would allow pretty much anyone to practice medicine if they could get hold of one. (Some days I’m not sure he’s that wrong to be honest).

I’m always grateful to have one when I’m working, and generally welcome any new editions with open arms.

This time I’m particularly thankful, because it has come with a difference. On the front cover there is a picture of a rainbow with the word “Thank You” underneath. It’s a really simple thing to have done, but somehow it made my day when I started work earlier this week.

At first I wondered why this was. I’m generally not overly sentimental when it comes to being thanked for things, regarding the assured / self-reliant / smug (*delete as appropriate) inner glow of knowing a job is well done as the only thing I need. Am I getting soft? Why am I staring at a rainbow thank you message as if someone has just given me a medal?

Maybe COVID has worn down my emotional resilience. Maybe I’m just short of sleep. Or maybe it’s highlighting something that’s really important.

Thankfulness is powerful. Much as I like to think I don’t need it, it makes a world of difference. Consultations that end with a patient saying “thank you” are fortunately frequent, and sometimes we overlook the positive impact that has on us. It’s actually pretty essential for a happy workplace.

God’s design and will for us involves “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). God desires this to be a big part of our character. It’s one of the keys to entering his presence, as highlighted by Psalm 100. It’s something we need to cultivate in ourselves; it builds us up, stops us being bitter, and helps keep us humble. It’s hard to be arrogant when you’re being grateful. As with most things that God asks of us, it gives him glory whilst simultaneously improving our character. He’s quite clever like that.

As Christians we bring the culture of heaven into our workplaces. This involves generating an atmosphere of thankfulness. It’s important to recognise that for our wellbeing we need to acknowledge the value of being thanked ourselves, and also be mindful of how we need to be thankful. It’s for the good of ourselves and those around us.

I’ve written before about our ability to release peace into an environment. We can also make a shift in the way thankfulness is expressed. One simple step I sometimes take is to thank people in advance. At the start of my day things are generally less chaotic than later on, and so I have the chance to say a brief hello to members of the team. Taking the chance to say to the receptionists “thank you for being here today, I know that you’re going to make a difference to our patients” is easy to do in the morning, before the busyness of the day makes me forget to do it.

Try it out, make it part of your work routine. I try to see it as part of my job description. On my better days I have a mental checklist: Prescriptions – done. Phone calls – done. Thanked the team? – Off I go to say thank you.

Also remember that God thanks you, even when no one else sees what you’ve done: “Your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:6).

And to whoever put the message on the front of the BNF – you have my sincere thanks.

Dr Dave Carter, Heaven in Healthcare Team