Episode #19: Is Physician Burnout Affecting Your Marriage?

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Is stress or burnout from your career affecting your marriage or significant relationship? It’s hard not to let work bleed into your home life. Stress can be so insidious you may not even be aware of its true impact. In this episode, I have the unique opportunity to talk with a family medicine physician and her husband about how they dealt with her career stress and unhappiness. You’ll get to hear their individual perspectives and how they worked through a difficult time in their marriage. If you’re struggling with burnout, married or not, this episode offers helpful wisdom and insight for finding a way through.

In this episode we’re talking about:

  • How physician burnout can affect your intimate relationships.
  • How a family practice physician and her husband navigated her career stress and burnout.
  • Their Enneagram personality types and how they factored in.
  • What each of them learned from going through a difficult time.
  • Tips for other physicians and their partners dealing with career stress.

Links for this episode:

Marriage Counseling: What to do when only one person wants to go. This is a blog I wrote a while back where I interviewed a marriage counselor.

Below are is a list of several books on couples and relationships.

All You Need is Love and Other Lies About Marriage: A Proven Strategy to Make Your Marriage Work. By John W. Jacobs, M.D.

Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently With Stress.  By John Gray   (also available in audio CD).

The Seven Principles for Making A Marriage Work:  A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert.  By John Gottman. 

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

Attached – The New Science of Attachment – How it Can Help You Find And Keep Love. By Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. 

Thank you for listening!

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Heather Fork

6 Comments

  1. Lucy on March 6, 2021 at 12:25 am

    What a nice podcast.
    I can relate and it helped me normalize my feelings and thoughts at the moment.
    Great to have a beacon, a story with a happy ending – there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

    • Heather Fork on March 6, 2021 at 1:59 am

      Lucy!Thanks so much for your sweet comments. I’m so glad the podcast was helpful for you. There definitely is a light at the end of the tunnel and also people to join hands with as you go through any dark passages. We don’t need to travel alone. Thank you for being a listener and taking the time to share! Much appreciated!

  2. Patricia on March 7, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    Your candid explanations of the stress in your life are very helpful to others. I am happy that you found a way to make a change, not easily done when immersed in a demanding professional life.

  3. Heather Fork on March 8, 2021 at 2:06 am

    Thank you for listening and for the kind and supportive comments. I couldn’t agree more. We can often feel isolated in our experiences in relationships that are challenging because we don’t typically share this part of our lives. Speaking for myself, it seemed the harder things were, the more it seemed like something to keep private from those close to me, which just makes things even tougher. I am so appreciative of the Claudios for sharing their own experiences. Their courage and generosity of heart are truly inspiring and freeing.

  4. Jennifer Goss, MD on March 8, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much for dedicating an entire episode to the ripple effect of career stress, and thank you to the couple who shared their journey. No one exists in a bubble, so finding career happiness is important for personal well-being and ripples to the people you love and who love you. It’s not anything that is taught in medical school! Heather, thank you, as always, for demonstrating that we don’t have to “suck it up;” that a balance is possible!

    • Heather Fork on March 8, 2021 at 9:40 pm

      You are so welcome! I was so glad to have the generous offer from Marina and Carlos to come on the podcast. I could not have asked for a better couple to share this kind of situation and experience. Their honesty is opening doors for others to walk through and see if anything needs changing in their own relationship landscape. It’s a bit of a paradox that we hear so much about burnout, but we don’t hear very much about how it affects spouses/partners and the relationship dynamic. Your description of the ripple effect is very apt. We may be able to compartmentalize work-stress to some degree, but at some point the flood-gates open up and we have to deal with the truth of the situation. Thank you kindly Jennifer for listening and commenting!

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Tim O

The coaching I have had with you has been life changing."

You helped me find the courage to seek out leadership positions and become a medical director as well as a physician advisor. I am grateful we crossed paths and am a different person because of it. You have inspired me to "believe" in spite of my inner skeptic. I consider you one of my most important mentors and am proud to also call you a friend. This says a lot given the apprehension I felt when I took a chance with our first coaching session. Even though I have already made a successful transition, I still value your ongoing mentorship and can enthusiastically attest that the value of your services is tremendous!

- Tim Owolabi, MD

Family Medicine
Lynette Charity

“I was at a crossroads in my medical career. I asked myself, "Do I stay or do I go?" 

I met Heather at the SEAK conference. She and I revisited this question.  Did I want to quit being medicine completely? She helped me to identify my needs, wants, and my vision for my FUTURE, not just in medicine, but in life!!!

She was able to listen to my "ramblings" about becoming a stand-up comic, lounge singer and voice-over actor and translate them into action steps.  I chose to become a composite of all of these. Now I am a more confident, healthier, happier person. I credit this in its entirety to the tutelage I have received and continue to receive from Heather.  She cares. She listens. She was there for ME.  She will be there for YOU!

- Lynette Charity, MD

Anesthesiologist
Gail Miller

“I am forever grateful to Heather for helping me to recognize, I am more than just my M.D." 

Heather helped me understand that I am more than just a doctor and that my experiences in clinical medicine are valuable in so many arenas.  As a result I realized that there are other ways to use my background, still be able to help people and continue to challenge myself and grow.  To that end I discovered coaching - specifically health coaching.  I am on my journey becoming a health coach and truly loving it!

- Gail Miller, MD

OB/Gyn physician
Steve

“Thank you, Heather, for helping me transform my career, my faith and my life."

What started out as an initial thirty-minute consultation call turned into an amazing four-year journey that transformed my life, personally, spiritually and professionally. 

Heather helped me to discover my passions...by doing so, I discovered I still had a calling for medicine but it now came from a place of truth...

Today...my wife and I are opening our first concierge medicine clinic in a community we love. I’m actually excited to have the opportunity to practice medicine the way I believe it’s meant to be, with a focus on the doctor-patient relationship and an emphasis on faith. I know if I had not reached out to Dr. Fork, my life would not be where it is at today.

- Steve Lapke, MD

Papillion, NE
Sue Zimmermann

“Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart."

She is incredibly knowledgeable about the range of careers available to physicians and provided me with advice and connections which I would not have found on my own.  From the start she encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try different things.  I was laid off unexpectedly in early 2017, and Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart and making decisions based on trust, not fear.  Now I am enjoying working part-time in a clinical setting in addition to teaching and writing.

- Sue Zimmermann, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon
Devki Patel

After months of struggling to find a non-clinical career that matched my values and passion, I stumbled upon Heather's website which truly changed my life."

Heather's insightful and personalized approach to career coaching made me think outside the box since she took the time to evaluate my personality, values, interests, and preferred lifestyle.

Through her encouragement, practical advice, and professional connections, I was able to find a non-clinical position at a state Medicaid agency that aligned with my passion for population health and serving low-income communities. In addition to her coaching sessions, Heather has built a community of like-minded physicians through her blog, and I feel honored to recommend her to friends and colleagues who seek to make positive changes in their professional and personal lives.

- Devki Patel, MD

Pathologist
Jay Macregor

Working with Heather ultimately helped me leave my job in corporate healthcare and find a path that was much more fulfilling."

My career was going reasonably well but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling I could do better; or at least find a better long-term career fit.  

I was able to find a surgery job that better aligned with my goals and professional interests.  Additionally, Heather helped me start a consulting business which has allowed me to pursue a true passion: helping medical students, residents, and attendings surgeons navigate the challenges of high-stakes standardized exams.    

If you are reading this as a “Type A” surgeon who doesn’t think coaching is for you, I would encourage you to give Heather a shot.  I’m very glad I did!

- Jay MacGregor, MD

Colorectal Surgeon
LI

“I gained the confidence in myself to develop an action plan that blended the best parts of my experiences and interests into a cohesive career." 

Through our work, I learned to trust myself to make good decisions for my own future – something I hadn’t realized I was struggling with because as an emergency physician, I make life-changing decisions with patients every day. 

By feeding my creativity and interests in other realms of my professional life, I’ve found renewed compassion for my patients and myself, making every shift an opportunity to actually care for people. Thank you Heather. I really couldn’t have made these changes without your help!

- Liz McMurtry, DO

Emergency Medicine Physician
Amie

The simple truth is - Heather Fork totally helped me change my life."

I never would have had the courage to make the changes I’ve made without her unwavering support, wealth of knowledge and commitment. 

When I first started working with Heather, I was downtrodden...I’d been practicing medicine for 20+ years and yet had never quite found my place.  During the first year I worked with Heather, I left the practice I’d been working at, and recreated an entirely new professional purpose.

I’m now an executive and leadership coach, a university professor, and a Brené Brown Daring Way facilitator, and I have never looked back.  I love what I am doing more than at any other time in my professional life and I credit Heather with seeing in me what I was never able to see in myself, until now.

Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself, schedule your time with Heather as soon as possible- she can help you reconnect to your purpose and reinvent your life.

- Amie Langbein, DO

Family Physician
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"After 30 years in academic medicine, I wanted a career change but had no idea where to start. Medicine was all I knew."

I signed up for coaching with Heather and it transformed my life. She helped me get clear on what I wanted my life to look like. We reviewed my skills, values, and strengths. She instilled hope in me that change IS possible after 50 years! 

The outcome is that I have created a life I love! I practice endocrinology part-time and own a life coaching business! Coaching with Heather is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

- Karen Barnard, MBBCh, MPH

Endocrinologist and Life Coach
modupe

"Heather’s approach was great! She would listen to me and helped me appreciate who I am."

I remember when she said ‘do your resume before our next meeting’, I was about to push back but she gently nudged me along and I’m glad I did exactly what she wanted me to do. We also did interview prep via Zoom and I was offered a great job in UM. She has continued to follow up even after I was offered this job, helping me with pointers about negotiating. I will totally recommend the Doctors Crossing and Heather to anyone feeling stuck like me and looking for a great coach! Thank you Heather!

- Modupe Oladeinde, MD

Family Medicine
IMG_05-22-2021_9-11-9

"Heather was my source of hope during a time when I felt stuck and confused. She gave me the permission and confidence to reach higher than I believed I could."

After graduating from residency and starting a family, I lost sight of why I became a physician. I struggled to convince myself to stay in a career that was clearly the wrong fit for me and my family. My anxiety about work was at an all-time high when I reached out to Heather. She provided something that my mentors, friends, and family could not – rather than just offering career advice, she changed the way I think about my life so that I could understand how my career would fit into it. I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on medicine and eventually found a job in academic medicine. I finally feel that excitement for medicine that I used to feel when I was in training. More importantly, I feel like I can be the role model to my young daughter who may one day also face similar challenges between career and family. Thank you, Heather, for all your kindness, support, and skillful coaching! The experience was life-changing!

- Yuri Shindo, MD

Internal Medicine Physician
Camille Gardner-Beasley

"As a Physician, your personal and even professional needs are often overlooked. I learned how to prioritize my career goals by working with Dr. Heather Fork."

She taught me how to put into practice what I knew in theory, that taking care of myself was a priority. I learned to give myself permission to make the career choices that would give me the work-life balance I desperately craved and needed. The process of confronting fears and insecurities was a bit scary, but well worth it in the end. I am now a happier version of myself with a non-clinical job that I truly enjoy!

- Camille Gardner-Beasley, MD

Family Medicine