Tag Archives: physician wellness

The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors

IMG_4244 It has been fourteen years since I graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. I have journeyed far from the field of medicine, and yet my heart keeps hearing the call to return to my physician communities and share what I have learned. I simply cannot ignore my sense that the pain within our health care system - now felt at every level, including patients, physicians, and payors - is a resounding call to wake us up to our next stage of evolution. It takes only a cursory scanning of the headlines of medical blogs like this one to get a sense for the unrest, the frustration, and the abundance of innovative practices emerging as a result of the rising sense of powerlessness among doctors. I left medicine immediately after receiving my MD, moving into uncharted waters after the Dean of Career Development at Michigan told me, "You're on your own. We can't help you with that." This was when, as a fourth year student, I announced I would be pursuing a career in venture capital. I volunteered at a private equity investment firm - yes, I worked for no pay - and six weeks later, I was hired as an Associate. Within two years I was the youngest partner-level Investment Manager in the firm. No one told me this was possible. I simply would not accept anyone else's opinion of what I could or could not do. Especially after what I witnessed in my world of medical training. One of my most vivid memories was on my Vascular Surgery rotation, where I was absolutely loving the concept of what we were doing - as intellectual masturbation material. But in practice, what I saw was my future laid out in the following scenarios. The second year resident, sick as a dog, showed up to work anyway, and, too weak to stand, lay down on a gurney in the OR while a case was going on. The third year vascular surgery fellow, a gentile Southern man, was in the middle of a lower extremity bypass graft and stepped out of the room. He lifted his mask, vomited into the scrub sink, and then reentered the OR to continue the procedure. This happened two more times within the same procedure before he completed. Many of you reading this may be nodding and saying, "Yup. That's just the way it is. Suck it up or leave it." And my question is, "If you have trained yourself not to feel, what else might you be missing in your experience of other people?". Continue reading

Exercise Your Write To Be Free

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/

I rarely share client stories, but a recent experience is birthing a whole new way of working for me. I just finished a 30-day writing experiment with a physician client who is just starting out on a brand new path. Having already found the courage to leave his medical practice and head into the open space of the unknown, we worked on rekindling a secret dream he's held for a long time, maybe his whole life: writing. He always wanted to try writing, but never did because he had a belief it was too impractical and was no way to make a living. Yet he knew he had stories to share, and ones that would help others if he did. I wanted to hear these stories myself. I was curious what touched him so deeply about his experiences in medicine. I knew that in hearing these stories, we could both experience a healing journey. So I came up with this idea, which I had never done with a client before: a writing experiment. The assignment was to write daily for ten minutes a day, thirty days in a row. Then send that writing to me, which I read every day. Mostly we let the process run itself, but we had two phone conversations during the month, once to check in and then again to review the entire process. I knew that a small, daily commitment done over a sustained period of time would lead to something. A new habit at the very least. An awakened sense of hope and creativity I envisioned as possible. What I didn't expect was the vast territory we would cover in those ten minutes of daily writing each day. Not only did I learn from my client's deep minings that occurred from this type of reflection, but I heard accounts of key moments, important feelings, and long-held beliefs that it might have taken months to get to with traditional weekly phone coaching calls. In timed writing, you get to the heart of the matter quickly. You can try to dance around, squirm a bit, but the hand keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking, and something gets said that has juice to it, even if at the very end. And when you have a curious, compassionate witness, who wants to hear more, and will ask you questions and deliver you the next prompt to inspire more writing, it unfolds with surprising beauty. Continue reading

News news news

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began" - Mary Oliver, "The Journey"
Today is that day for me. Maybe it was the flyer announcing my talk at Stanford Medical School in a few weeks (finally making it feel real...and making me feel proud of the creative thinking I've been doing on this subject). Maybe it was seeing the pile of STUFF in my house, moved out of the Cradle of Manifestation, prompting me to revisit what's really taking up the space in my drawers and closets. Maybe it was the invitation to have dinner this Friday with a couple of doctors who have transitioned out of medicine themselves (making me feel one step closer to finding My People). Maybe it was finally telling the truth out loud to myself and to a compassionate witness about what I feel in my heart (and experiencing the expansion that came with it). Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever it was, I finally know what I need to do, even though I have no idea how it's going to play out or if anyone will even care. But I know enough to trust this particular feeling of knowing. It's not a rational linear mind kind of knowing. It's a whole body energy clearing kind of knowing. And I can't wait to share the news with you!

So what IS new? Continue reading

Resources

Physician Burnout and Wellness Resources Change and Transitions: Resources To Help With Letting Go Sound Healing and Meditation Resources Connecting With Your Heart: Resources To Help You Recognize Your True Nature

Physician Burnout and Wellness Resources

My take on physician burnout focuses on self-empowerment and witnessed self-inquiry to create a personal definition of physician wellness. There are many academic journal papers outlining the symptoms, prevalence, and possible explanations for physician burnout at every stage of medical training and continuing through practicing physicians mid-career. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mid-Career Burnout in Generalist and Specialist Physicians

Medical Student Burnout and Unprofessional Conduct

Mindfulness Intervention For Primary Care Physician Burnout

Depression and Suicidal Ideation Among Medical Students

Interview with Dr. Laura Roberts on Medical Student Depression and Distress

The blogosphere contains lively discussions on the subject of medical student and physician burnout. For example:

Physician burnout in residency

How physician burnout impacts patient care

Primary care physicians burnout and health care reform

New York Times article on medical student burnout and challenge to patient care

FREE recordings from my "Get the 411 Before It's a 911" coaching calls for medical students, residents, & fellows (also valuable for practicing, mid-career physicians):

Coaching Call #1 - I work with a practicing physician on the stressful thoughts of being on call.

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Coaching Call #2 - 5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals

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Coaching Call #3 - Creative Leadership for physicians

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Coaching Call #4 - Boundaries, Self-Care Principle #1 for Physicians

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Coaching Call #5 - Reactive to Creative Mode, Self-Care Principle #2 for Physicians

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FREE episodes of "Revolutionizing Medicine...One Belief At A Time" podcast - examining the commonly held stressful thoughts among physicians:

Episode 1 - "I need to take care of my patients."

Episode 2 - "I am surrounded by illness and suffering."

Episode 3 - "Patients demand my time."

Episode 4 - "People need me to respond."

Blog posts I've written:

Why I Created "Self-Care For The Caring Professional" Online Course

5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals

Doctors On The Brink Of Burnout: The Way I See It

Who Is Responsible For Physician Burnout?

Creativity: A Prescription For Doctors

Diagnosis: Human

BUY the book, Physicians In Transition, including 25 interviews with physicians who have made the transition away from clinical careers and created the life of their dreams! I am included on page 27!

Want to learn more and get "virtual coaching" on this subject?

ENROLL in my online course, "The Art of Self-Care Primer". 21-day online interactive course takes you through each of the Principles of Self-Care (outlined in Coaching Call #2 above) in greater depth, including daily exercises that you can incorporate into your life. You complete the activities at your own pace, and have access to all materials after the course is completed! More info here>>