Winter 2024

Members & Publications


The Importance of Adapting to Change

Gallacher circle


   David Gallacher, MD
   University of Colorado PM&R Program

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is often credited with the idea that "change is the only constant." Change is not only constant but inevitable. In medicine, we often associate success with attributes such as hard work, integrity and resilience. However, we need to remember one of the most essential attributes of a medical career: adaptability. In medicine, we are constantly asked to change and adapt. It is not only constant but inevitable.

When faced with difficult change, I focus on three key areas. First, I ask myself, "is this within my control?" Often, the answer is no. Being able to distinguish what is and is not in your control is vital. If something is in my control, I can take actionable steps to change or improve the situation. However, attempting to change something outside one's control can lead to frustration and burnout. Accepting change and differentiating controllable from uncontrollable is helpful in both our workplace and our day-to-day lives.

Second, I aim to embrace change. If you know something is coming, it's less likely to catch you off guard. Acknowledging that change will occur eases the transition process. Many times in life, things do not go as we plan. Surely, we could all share countless examples. The idea of embracing change means that we accept and adapt to new circumstances. It allows being open to new opportunities for growth and learning. The sooner we embrace change, the sooner we can see the value of it.

Finally, when faced with a difficult challenge, remember why you're here. We all have a story. We all have a path that led us to the field of medicine. Remember what that is. Don't lose sight of it. We are often asked to put our heads down and continually move from one step to the next as we progress through our careers. We all say things like, "when I finish this test, I'll be happy," or "when I finish residency, it will be great," only to find ourselves at the next stage with new challenges. Medicine is inevitably about the journey rather than the destination. Remember why you chose this journey in the first place.