Previously, I asserted that physician wellness must go beyond simply managing burnout.
We should be striving for personal growth and happiness regardless of what life throws at us.
This can involve the “Doing More” activities such as sleep and exercise.
But “Doing Less” is even more crucial to thriving.
Fundamentally, physicians are overworked and stressed out—and our own survey data supports this.
So, “Doing Less” means reducing clinical and administrative hours.
And in our personal lives, this can include stepping back from volunteering or obligations to family and friends.
But this is extremely difficult in reality.
As a profession, we’re highly conscientious and put the needs of others ahead of ourselves.
So let me challenge you with this thought:
If you were your own patient, would you advise yourself to work less and focus on more self-care?
Have you ever wondered why some teams are so cohesively gelled and dedicated, where everyone puts in 110% while working so seamlessly together?
And why are so many other teams (maybe even yours) so dysfunctional where everyone is demotivated, deflated, and disjointed?
The surprising fact is the high output team isn’t necessarily paid more or incentivized. What it means is the rewards have to be internal. Essentially, the entire team has bought in to their collective dream, goal or purpose.
It’s like the Dragon Boat Festival in Chinese culture. For the team to win, they must listen to the same drummer and row in unison. These team members have a full buy-in to the collective cause.
What are the prerequisites for this total buy-in to happen?
I recently supervised an outstanding junior resident and got to discussing intentional living as it relates to careers.
She shared how, at her current stage of training, she has little control over her time but expressed optimism about her post-residency life.
I cautioned her, however, that circumstances do not automatically improve without deliberate action.
I shared took two examples of how this plays out:
Do you know what the most listened-to radio station in the entire world is?
What station is that?
What’s In it For Me?
This question is a primal one—subconscious, yet powerful.
Unlike Jerry Maguire’s “Show me the money!”, the currency here isn’t always monetary. What about time, effort, personal safety, respect, ideals, interest, amusement, fulfillment, integrity, ethics or worthwhileness?
This subliminal question permeates nearly every human decision and must be adequately answered before any true, wholehearted buy-in or conversion.
And not just in areas of sales and marketing, but also in highly relevant situations like patient compliance or clinical team throughput.
Every objection or resistance can be traced back to this very question.
So the next time you find yourself dealing with a skeptical patient, a hesitant surrogate decision-maker, an obstinate child (your own?), a doubting staff member, a confrontational colleague, or even a...
At Physician Empowerment, resiliency isn’t just about managing burnout.
We aim for a higher goal.
Over the course of our careers, we should be enjoying personal growth and more happiness irrespective of practice environment or pay.
One key strategy we explore in our small groups and conference events is the notion of “Doing More” activities.
These are the small, everyday actions we can take to bring mindfulness and joy into a typical day–regardless of how we feel.
There is obviously more here than we can discuss in a few lines… But essentially “doing more” means adding something to your day just for you.
It can be exercise, journaling, watching a favorite movie, laughing with friends, or (gasp!) sleeping.
The next time you’re feeling stressed during a busy week, make time to do something special just for yourself and then see what it does for your mood.
What do you call a group of people pulling as hard as they can in concert, but hardly going anywhere?
Imagine five horses pulling one cart in full force, just to pull it apart (from pulling in 5 different directions).
Ever seen a clinical team with everyone trying so hard but achieving so little? Maybe your own team is kind of like that.
Guess what? Good intention and work ethics alone aren’t enough: there has to be directionality. Unfortunately, the failures of vision casting and value alignment have become the norm in far too many clinical settings.
Remember the good old physics concept called vector, which distinguishes displacement from distance, and velocity from speed?
In a clinical team, the leader has to be that vector providing not just orders but directionality.
The Bible says, “If a bugle doesn’t sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”
Within our careers, we shouldn’t just be surviving. We need to be thriving.
And that means daily and long-term investments in our personal well-being.
Medicine is inherently stressful. But by prioritizing ourselves daily, burnout can become less frequent and less severe.
This involves a personal exploration of our personal, financial, and practice lives.
This ensures that when we are on the job, we are performing at our best throughout our careers.
But most importantly, it ensures we are at our happiest.
Life is simply too short for anything less.
In the First and Second World Wars, many young people voluntarily joined the army, navy, or air force because they believed in the cause: the greater good, or what would be at stake if they didn’t fight.
Even for drafted soldiers, for them to sacrifice their personal comfort, safety, or even their life, the cause had to be greater than their pay. This has held true repeatedly throughout history.
Is modern-day medical practice all that different?
There are military-reminiscent overt and covert pecking orders in healthcare’s highly structured hierarchy, wherein all must strictly follow protocol and orders from superiors and higher authorities.
But as effective leaders, let’s not forget that these individuals chose to join the ranks in the front line.
And more importantly, they chose to join your team.
We need to lead them like a voluntary army.
Why? Because at the end of the day, they all have a choice: to stay, or to quit and join another team somewhere else!
Vulnerability. What a foreign and dangerous concept in medical culture!
In the CBC Radio show White Coat, Black Art, Dr. Brian Goldman shocked the world by disclosing how he killed a patient via clinical error. He shared that the toughest thing in a physician’s life is to stand faulty or guilty in front of their peers.
In the name of professionalism, we become experts in hiding our feelings, inner voices, issues, and problems.
This kind of toxic, perfectionistic, and hostile shaming culture pervades clinical settings and academia alike. By covering up our mistakes, we inadvertently create more problems—which only lead to worse clinical outcomes, College complaints, or even lawsuits.
I know we’re still very far away from rewriting medical culture as a whole.
As leaders within our own teams, we can create and foster a culture of vulnerability by:
Authenticity has been a real buzzword lately, notably on social media where anyone can hide behind the façade of a manufactured identity. Even in our daily lives, people may look good and act kind without being genuine or authentic. As leaders of the next generation, we need to be cognizant that they are particularly sensitive to how genuine the “grownups” are.
Our fast-paced, convenience-based culture doesn’t help the situation either. When we say “How are you?” while passing by an acquaintance or stranger, do we really mean it?
In the high-conformity clinical environment, subordinates are seldom allowed differing ideas or thoughts. For example, they must laugh at their superior’s jokes, even if they’re not funny!
How can a team be fully effective and release their full potential if no one feels safe to be themselves?
Here are some conditions for a culture of authenticity...