Burnout and Lost Love

Border

 

broken heart pixabay

Not long ago I received an email that made my heart sink.

It was from someone I knew in medical school many years ago (too many to say out loud).  We lost touch a few years years after I graduated.

The short email read:

“I am owned by the University of ——-, and mired in Primary Care practice.  I’ve made a major career mistake.”

My last memories of my friend were of him winning a prestigious award that recognizes the medical student who best exemplifies the ultimate in patient care.  He was enthusiastic about his life and was looking forward to a rewarding career in internal medicine.

I gave him a call and he filled me in on the downward spiral that led to this point where he would gladly leave medicine if he only knew how.  (He agreed with my writing about his situation here).

He told me about some rough patches during residency, then a practice partnership that went south, followed by the all too common stresses of juggling work and family life, and a time on call when he “lost it” one night in a big way.  But what I found most upsetting was when he told me about what he lost.

His job at the university had initially allowed him to teach part-time in addition to seeing patients, and he quickly won several teaching awards.  He loved this part of his job and it kept him motivated and engaged.  Then he was told he needed to see more patients instead of teaching in order to increase revenue.  That was a huge blow.  The second blow came when he had to decrease the time he spent with patients.  Spending time educating his patients about their disease was really important to him, and one of the reasons he won the award in medical school.  Now he never had enough time to practice in a way that was satisfying.

Here was someone who had loved medicine, loved his patients, was a great teacher, and had been thrilled about spending the rest of his life being a doctor.   Now, all that seemed lost in a trap of conflicting values.

Is this the path we would chose for our future doctors?  To have them burned out and demoralized while their career is still young?

How do we prevent this from happening?

In my last post on the causes of burnout, I said I would be talking about solutions next.

The solution is going to have to happen on an individual as well as an institutional level.  It is not enough to tell doctors to get their lives in balance, exercise, eat right, take a stress management course and learn to express their feelings.  Clinics, hospitals and universities need to actively promote physician wellness and have it be an integral part of the professional culture.  Fortunately, some are already doing this.

Dr. Anderson Spickard, a physician wellness expert, speaks to this model in his article on burnout in JAMA*:

“Preventing burnout, a responsibility of all physicians and of the health care systems and organizations in which they work, entails the explicit promotion of physician well-being.  Physicians must be guided from the earliest years of training to cultivate methods of personal renewal, emotional self-awareness, connection with social support systems, and a sense of mastery and meaning in their work.  Maintaining these values is the work of a lifetime.  It is not incidental to medicine but is at the core of the deepest values of the profession to first, do no harm.  Doing no harm begins with one’s self. “

It is estimated that the loss of one primary care physician costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, there really is no way to estimate the cost of losing the love of one’s profession.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Next blog – practical suggestions for burnout.

*JAMA 2002:288(12)1447-1450 Mid-Career Burnout in Generalists and Specialists Physicians.  Spickard et al.

Latest Posts

Find what you're looking for:

Heather Fork

1 Comment

  1. CarlyDay on January 4, 2016 at 4:09 am

    Thank you.

Leave a Comment





Doctors-Crossing-Physicians-Insider-Guide (1)

GetThe Physician's Insider Guide

15 of the most common FAQs on physician career transition

Sign up below to get the resource to jump-start your career transformation! You will also receive the latest blogs and updates from Heather.

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
Untitled design

"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