Rapid Rounds: 5 Minutes with Dr. Siobhan Deshauer

Written By The Rounds

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Dr. Siobhan Deshauer is the definition of a social physician in the Canadian healthcare space and might be better known as ViolinMD – the name that she goes by on her social media accounts. Between managing her YouTube channel with over 700,000 subscribers and working as a full-time 4th-year resident doctor, Dr. Siobhan is nothing less than busy! We were lucky enough to have her answer a few questions and highlight her as our third physician in our “Rapid Rounds” blog series.

Check out the rest of our post to hear about Dr. Siobhan’s experience with physician burnout, her opinion on the dangers and opportunities for social media in medicine and what she believes is the most pressing issue in Canadian healthcare today.

1. What is your job and speciality? What attracted you to this specialty?

Dr. Siobhan Deshauer

I’m a 4th-year resident doctor, specializing to become a rheumatologist. 

I think rheumatology is fascinating because you encounter diagnostic challenges, exciting treatment options and the opportunity to educate and advocate for patients suffering from chronic diseases. I love the diverse patient population that we treat: young, elderly and even pregnant patients! You see stable patients in the clinic setting and critically ill patients in the ICU. The rheumatologic disease affects every organ in the body, which means I get to put my internal medicine training to use on a daily basis. 

Most of all, I value the long-term relationships that you develop with patients. Since most rheumatologic conditions are chronic in nature, you follow patients for years, which allows for a strong therapeutic relationship. It is extremely satisfying to help a person regain their quality of life and decrease their pain and suffering, whether that’s with a simple joint injection or with an exciting new biologic therapy.

I have certainly felt moments of profound physical and emotional exhaustion during residency, particularly on rotations with frequent 26-hour call shifts. I still cared about my patients and still enjoyed myself at work, but when I walked out of the hospital I felt as if I had nothing left, and that’s something I had never experienced before. Was that the beginning of burnout or was it just pure exhaustion from such long hours? I’m not sure, but I do know that it was not sustainable. At those times I would lean on my friends and family, prioritize sleep when possible and limit the number of extra projects I got involved with. It seems simple, but in the moment it can be really tough.

I’ve come to realize that life is like walking a tightrope. The best tightrope walkers look completely stable and balanced, but the reality is they are constantly adjusting as they go. Balance is not a single fixed state. We are always in flux, and so are the aspects of our life that we are balancing. So I believe the best approach is to build your self-awareness and learn to recognize the warning signs that tell us we need to adjust. One big adjustment I made was decreasing the frequency with which I was uploading YouTube videos in the second half of my internal medicine residency.

3. What are the dangers and opportunities for social media in medicine? 

The dangers of social media in medicine largely revolve around professionalism. I believe it’s important to be aware of the image you portray on social media and to avoid content that might erode the trust in the physician-patient relationship. Similarly, blurring the lines of personal and professional identities can also become complicated. Personally, my rule of thumb is to share things on social media that I would have no problem telling a patient in my office. 

In contrast, there are many opportunities and benefits to social media in medicine. It allows the opportunity to provide free education to the public and healthcare providers alike. This also provides a new avenue for research on the best ways to provide education on social media platforms. When done properly, it can strengthen the trust between the public and physicians. I believe this is extremely important since misinformation is so prevalent and it can be difficult for the public to know where to turn for reliable information.

4. How do you believe online networking can enhance clinical decision making?

I have seen such fantastic discussions about medical literature on social media. No longer are these discussions limited to journal clubs and academic settings. It’s an opportunity for physicians around the world to stay up to date on literature while being able to discuss specific cases to enhance patient care. For instance, I have witnessed my attending physician successfully crowdsource opinions over Twitter to solve a difficult diagnostic dilemma. More recently, we have seen communities of physicians from around the world coming together to discuss the care of patients with COVID-19. There is so much untapped potential and I’m extremely excited to see what the future holds!

5. What do you think is the most pressing issue for physicians in Canadian healthcare today?

There are so many pressing issues that we need to address, although the one that stands out the most to me is health equity across the country. We need to provide equitable care to all Canadians. That includes addressing racism in our society, improving care in under-serviced areas, and protecting vulnerable populations. I believe the pandemic has provided an unexpected opportunity to develop and embrace virtual care. My hope is that we continue to build on these technologies within healthcare long after the pandemic is over.