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My favorite pen

...reunited, but why were we apart?


If you work in healthcare, you have a favorite pen. It’s an unwritten law. The brand, the type of pen, the color of the ink - you have your reasons for it being your favorite. And if your pen comes up missing, it’s going to be a problem.


I’m partial to a Dr. Grip, myself. Ball point. Blue ink. Since 2005. So why have I been using a black ink promotional pen for the last several months? It writes okay, and it’s got a wider barrel so it feels almost right in my hand. But there’s a weird ribbing where your fingertips go that makes it uncomfortable to write with for too long. And it’s a little too light in my hand.

For a promo pen, it’s good, but it’s no Dr. Grip.


This morning, things changed. I looked at the pen in my hand and saw how foreign it was.


I saw how much it was not what I really wanted


And what I really wanted was my Dr. Grip that was in my desk drawer, inches away from this imposter. I threw the promo pen out, reached into the desk drawer and plucked Dr. Grip from its resting place.


The ink had dried up. THAT’S why I set it aside, despite the fact that I always keep refills on hand. I popped in a new refill and started writing. The ink came out smooth and steady, with no false starts or coddling required. The squishy (but not too squishy) rubbery part of the barrel felt right, and comfortable. I was off to the races, writing like the wind, and made a list like no other.


So what?


Before reuniting with my beloved pen this morning, I would not have thought that pens would make a great analogy for boundaries. But as I threw out the cheesy promo pen, as I installed the refill in my Dr. Grip and started writing, I got to thinking.


Why did I settle?


Why did I put up with this other promo pen for so long (months!) when I already knew what I wanted? Was I doing someone a favor by using their not great pen and promoting their business? Where did that leave me?


In my tiny podcast, this week I’m talking about boundaries. I encourage you to think about your needs, and the boundaries that will protect those needs, before you need to use them. It’s tempting to wait until after the fact and see where the line should have been, but I think that leaves us unnecessarily vulnerable.


Boundaries in the workplace can take an almost unlimited number of forms. Admin time to get your charting done. An adequate late arrival policy so that you aren’t on the hook when a patient shows up significantly late. Not charting at home. Leaving reasonably on time. The right pen.


Click here to check this week’s episode out (your time is valuable, so I keep it short). Think about the pros and cons of letting someone else decide your boundaries for you versus deciding for yourself. And maybe make some changes.


Take care,




originally published March 10, 2023

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