Ready, Set, Prepare! 3 Things Physicians can do to Avoid Jumping out of the Flame into the Fire

     By the time I talked to my client "Jill", an OB/GYN 10 years into her career, she was already so burned out that she had decided to up and quit her job one day. When she came to me she was in somewhat of a panic because she was looking for the next job and was very fearful of jumping out of the flame and into the fire. She had interviewed at a job in another city that "sounded good" and had even accepted the job and signed a contract, but then felt immediate regret. The environment she was in was simply so toxic that it paralyzed her from making a decision because she just didn't know who to trust … or even if she could trust her own choices at this point.

    This is not an uncommon scenario happening in the physician community, as physician burnout is still very prevalent, and as doctors are waking up to the awareness that they either are or are moving toward burnout they are taking action fast. The problem is, sometimes they take action before fully considering all of their "next step" options. Benjamin Franklin quoted "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail", and this is critically applicable when thinking about a job or career transition in our industry. I've seen many physicians who come to me for coaching after having jumped into a few flames, simply because they didn't prepare for their transition, they just made it. I frequently speak about the stages and process of change and one thing we as physicians are great at is action. When we make a decision we act. This can prove to be a double edge sword because in some case we act before we plan.

    I know this very well. It is the way I approached starting my very first practice over a decade ago. That practice failed. What I learned, was that I needed to take time to plan and prepare. When I applied those learnings to my second attempt at starting my own practice, it not only ended up surviving the 2008 recession, it became a very successful practice. There are three things I learned from those two experiences that I've applied for myself, and with my clients in times of transition that over the years has helped countless physicians move smoothly from contemplation to action through the process of preparation.

    1.  Stop and consider what you'd like your ideal outcome to be: When I work with physician moms, and burned out women physicians, the first question I ask them is "if you had a blank slate, what would ideal career/life/relationship look like?" We get very granular about it and I ask them to suspend their current belief about what is realistic and dream big. As physicians, we have not been asked what we want. The path has always been laid before us. Furthermore, in the corporatization of medicine, we are discouraged from dreaming big. In considering the ideal outcome, you reawaken your creative mind and open up possibilities that you have long lost consideration for.

    2.  What is not working about your current situation…specifically? Similar to knowing your ideal, you must know what didn't work about where you are (or were in some cases). Knowing very specifically what didn't work allows you to be able to look for those red flags as you move forward. For example, in a relationship, a red flag for me would be sarcasm, contempt, and condescension. I know this and therefore when I was dating, I would listen to the way a man spoke about the people in his life. With relation to the job, many of these red flags will appear in interviews … the way other physicians, staff, and leaders interact with you (and with each other). The point is knowing specifically what your "red flag" signs comes from knowing what drove you to burnout in the first place. A word of warning, however. This is not the primary focus of your move forward, it is simply a boundary you are setting for future moving forward.

    3.  What would be an ideal strategy to get from where you are to where you want to be? This is a very important question to answer because the strategies and structures you create to move forward inform how smooth or challenging your transition will be, and if it will ultimately be a successful transition. I recommend bouncing these strategies off of someone you know, trust and has the same expertise and experience in this area. It could be a colleague who has made the transition. It could be a physician coach who had experience in helping other physicians make successful job and career transitions. Either way, it's important to NOT do this process alone, rather have an accountability partner with your best interest, experience, and an open mind to do it with you.

    When you are ready to make your transition whether it be from clinical to non-clinical, from job to better job, or from employee to entrepreneurship, these first three steps are very important jump points for preparing to succeed and avoiding the "flame to fire" mistake. Considering your ideal outcome, knowing what's currently unworkable, and creating the ideal pathway (with a mentor or physician coach) will ultimately set you up for smooth, successful, and ultimately more fulfilling move toward the future of your design. 

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    Tuesday, 05 December 2023

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