How I Work Smarter: Drew Kalnow, DO
One word that best describes how you work?
Current mobile device
What is something you are working on now?
InSitu EM Simulation
How did you come up with this Idea/Project?
Identified the need to improve critical patient care in the ED. This project uses senior residents as resus leaders with the ED critical patient team in one of our ED resus bays. Through this, we improved team communication and understanding of work-flows while also identifying and addressing latent safety threats.
What’s your office workspace setup like?
Most of my work is done in my home “office” currently. I work in our 3rd-floor loft away from most of the other house distractions. There is good natural and artificial lighting, room to spread out and with my AirPods Pro headphones, I can get down to business. Also, have a microphone and sound barriers that can be easily set up when podcasting or giving virtual lectures. When I am at the hospital, I use a shared workspace with other faculty, mainly my laptop at a desk, only using the hospital computer system if needed since it is much less portable and has built-in firewalls.
What’s your best time-saving tip in the office or home?
Having a to-do list with some general time allotments is a must. Knowing what tasks need to be accomplished when I start my day and giving myself a time limit to try and complete the task is critical. Part of this is also being realistic and honest with myself about what I am going to work on and how much is going to get completed. I can’t just say “work on X manuscript” and hope to be productive, I am much more specific with my todo list, breaking things up into accomplishable sub-tasks. Nothing begets productivity more than feeling like you are being productive checking things off your list, some go so far as to include making your bed, just to be able to check something off at the start of the day. Oh, and a really good cup of coffee and music helps too (pre-COVID, the local coffee shop often served as my office space).
What’s your best time-saving tip regarding email management?
Don’t rely on email to be your task manager. Find a way to move to-do items into another format that actually works. There are lots of apps that do this, or it can be done manually using notes or a calendar. Part of this is also staying on top of emails, if not addressing the email right away, placing it (or the todo item) somewhere that it will actually get done. For example, when I got the email asking me to write this article, I sent it to Todoist and scheduled it for a day I knew I could get it done. This is especially important when working out of multiple emails (I have 3).
What apps do you use to keep yourself organized?
Todoist has become my main project manager. It’s an intuitive app that syncs well with the google platform so I can link google drive files to it and also have it link to my master calendar (I use Google for this). I still use the sticky note function on my computer so that my “big ticket” items stay in the front of my mind, even if there is not an immediate deadline. Finally, I use good old fashion 3×5 index cards to take notes about projects when I am at my home or office desk. If I need to make an electronic version to work off of, I will either in notes or google doc and link those into Todoist, but often they stay at my desk as a reminder of ideas or subtasks for the projects I am working on.
How do you stay up to date with resources?
Being an active consumer of social media keeps me up to date on what is going in EM and medicine in general. I am an avid podcast listener,, staying up to date on the hot topics but also reviewing core content and more of the social conversations ongoing in medicine. It also helps that I also produce content through the EM Over Easy Podcast and some other sources, kind of hard to be active in that realm without knowing what’s out there too.
What’s your best time-saving tip in the ED?
In Box Zero – totally stolen from the email management concept, but it is crucial to success in the ED. I complete my charts at the time of dispo, often the only time I chart. This minimizes times spent in the chart but also ensures that I am not occupying bandwidth for patients I am no longer actively caring for and can leave my shift essentially on time. I also make sure everything else in my EMR inbox is done before I leave my shift, sign APP attestation notes, verbal orders, etc. That way, I leave the hospital and start my next shift with an empty clinic to-do list.
ED charting: Macros or no macros?
Yes to physical exam macros and basic care charts but ABSOLUTELY NOT medical decision making. I firmly believe that MDM macros cloud the chart and make it harder for another provider to actually discern what is going on with the patient. I can’t tell you how many charts from other providers I have looked at, that I have no idea what they were thinking with patient care because the chart is all macros. That may work for billing and legal purposes, but ultimately, the chart needs to drive patient care forward and tell your story of how and why you cared for the patient.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about work, life, or being efficient?
Balance – the person that introduced me to Todoist recommended that the first item needs to be about your personal/family life. This is so important to being productive and not burning out. Keep perspective on what is important, and that does not always need to be work.
It’s okay to say no – I am finally at a place professionally that I am beginning to say no to projects that I am not currently interested in or don’t have time for. It is such a hard thing to do, but it is crucial to maintaining balance and sanity. The key is to say no in a way that keeps doors open or even moves the project forward by referring it on to someone else.
What advice would you give other doctors who want to get started, or who are just starting out?
Decide who you want to be in terms of your medical career. This might seem a bit strange at first, but I think it helps to provide focus and context as you are starting out. What are your interests that you will focus on and what type of career do you think you want? Part of the question is checking in on the person you are as a whole and making sure your medical persona and trajectory are true to you.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?
Do the Next Right Thing – This is beyond cheesy but so true. If you can say to yourself, I am doing the next right thing for me, my family, my patients, my career, then you are doing really well. BTW, this is totally stolen from a song in Frozen 2, which I have watched countless times with my 3yo, “I’ve seen dark before, but not like this. This is cold, this is empty, this is numb…But you must go on and do the next right thing”.
Who would you love for us to track down to answer these same questions?
- Tanner Gronowski, @MOX13
- Rodney Fullmer, @Dr_Fullmer
- Katie Fisher, @KatieFisherEM
- Katie Holmes, @KatieHolmesEM
Read other How I Work Smarter posts, sharing efficiency tips and life advice.
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