Renee Lim is the Director of Program Development at the Pam McLean Centre, Senior Lecturer in Professional development at the University of Sydney, an actress, writer and performer in many shows such as “Please Like Me” and “Ask the Doctor”, as well as CEO of Changineers and a consultant for non profit organisations. In between all this, she locums in Emergency, Geriatrics and Palliative Care.
I think what I really love about acting is exploring another person and getting to know that person. It helps me a lot in my other work. I think they all combine in some ways with my teaching work at Pam McLean: the more you understand humans, the more you understand why they do what they do. The more you experience them and see the different things that they can do, and the more that you choose to accept them, then the better you become at things like communicating, creating relationships, being respectful and helping them. I think the acting work definitely plays into that.
My best set of skills for maximising my positive impact on the healthcare system was going to be complex problem solving, communication and relationships. I realized that those skills are particularly useful in geriatrics, palliative care and definitely in emergency. The patients in those settings are often at points of life where they really need as much support space and safety as possible to deal with what’s happening to them. Those spaces are often at the start of a healthcare interaction which is in the emergency department or at the end of an interaction which can be in palliative care for example. Geriatrics is the end of the interaction with life. In emergency you've got the medication, you've got the interventions: you will do them. When you're at the palliative care end of the spectrum it is again the opposite - no intervention is a form of intervention. In geriatrics it’s a balancing act - there are lots of clinical decisions you can make. In the end you will only be able to make one or two of them. It always comes back to what is most important - how the patient is feeling about what is happening. Sometimes the only thing you can do is change how the patient feels.
Later on I moved into teaching work because that became a more effective way to maximise what I could offer.
When I was in my intern year I did a neurosurgery term as well as in emergency and geriatrics. I decided I want to be one of those three. Neurosurgery was way too much work. I realised that my skill set definitely comes in being able to solve complex problems and engage with other humans. If I think from the perspective of “I’m part of a very large system that improves the lives of others, what can I offer that is most beneficial to that system?”, it is definitely not to go away and slog it out for 12 years as a surgical registrar and try to get good at that. While I might be able to do it, and I might be interested in clinical knowledge, and I might be capable of looking at a skin lesion and identifying it, my best set of skills for the healthcare system was going to be in the areas of complex problem solving, communication and relationships.
How you plan your career is determined by a number of factors. One is what you prefer to do. The second one is your skills and capacities. The third one would be what you do best. The fourth would be what you do worst. They're completely independent factors.
You need to think about all of those things in making your decision, but then you need to choose which ones to prioritize because they won't all send you in the same direction. I think it's more about being comfortable with the choice you made and why you made it.
We all evolve as human beings. I think a lot of us in the medical field get stuck in what we decided five years ago. The reality is that your priorities are going to change a little bit every week, and every six months they’ll change quite a bit. Every two or three years they may be completely different.
Look at all the categories, pick the ones which end up being the most important to you , make the decision, and then check back in with yourself on a regular basis and reevaluate.
I have an issue with the word empathy. Not because I don't think empathy is incredibly important, but because empathy has lost its meaning.
Empathy to me has nothing to do with standing in someone else’s shoes and feeling their pain. It’s actually about understanding the reasons for someone’s experience, and incorporating that into your medical problem solving.
I think how many ‘perfect moments’ you have in life is more reflective of how you measure your success as a human.
If you define your value as a human as just being here, engaging with society, staying true to myself physically, mentally and emotionally, and accepting whatever happens in the moment and learning from it - everything is awesome. There’s no way you can fail as a person.
If you define success as “I’m a doctor, I save people’s lives, I’m going to earn $180,000 a year for the rest of my life, I’m going to have two kids and my wife is going to be successful too,”, then you’re perfect moments will be quite limited.
It’s all about finding different ways to measure yourself.
Perfect moments can literally be every second if you want them to be.
Humans beings are complex with a wide range of emotions. Perfect moments are not just those filled with joy and happiness and fun. To think that a perfect moment for a human is limited to only to the moments where our endorphins are flying through our brains is actually quite disrespectful to who we are as humans.
For me, every single moment is perfect if I as myself as the human within this to the best of my ability. If I'm sad, then I should allow myself to be sad.
I think we do that poorly - we don’t respect the other ‘unhappy’ parts of the human experience. Every time someone impacts you or you impact someone else, you’ve just achieved being human. If you you pretend that it didn’t happen, you’re actually disrespecting the fact that you as a human have just achieved something. It's about what you do with it and what you learn from it that will actually take you to that next level.
The perfect moment can be the most horrible moment as well. They exist in every second you forget to enjoy.
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