7 Ways Physicians Can Reignite Their Passion for Medicine
April 23, 2018
By Debra Wood, contributor
Physicians typically enter the medical
profession to make a difference in people’s lives. They set out in their first
physician job with excitement, great expectations and the best of intentions.
Then reality sets in and they
are forced to:
with insurance companies and regulatory agencies
with electronic medical records
difficult cases, patients and schedules
the hassles of running a business – or the tensions that come from an employment
These factors can often lead to physician
burnout or decreased satisfaction with the practice of medicine.
Yet physicians can reignite that
original passion, for their sake and for their patients.
Physician burnout has been associated with worse
outcomes and patient safety issues. Three-quarters of physicians responding to
Survey of America’s Physicians reported
sometimes, often or always having feelings of professional burnout. The survey
was conducted by Merritt Hawkins on behalf of The Physicians Foundation.
Tom Davis MD FAAFO, principal of
Tom Davis Consulting in St Louis, said the change to a business-like model of
healthcare, with clinicians being treated like assembly-line workers,
contributes to burnout. He indicated that physicians have three options: learn
to adjust, change positions or quit clinical medicine.
“You are never without an option,”
said Catherine Hambley, PhD, owner of LeapFrog Consulting in California. “You
identify what you want, change the stressor or how you are responding to it.”
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tips to rekindle your love of medicine
Figure out what makes you happy
Hambley recommended focusing on
what aspects of the practice of medicine bring satisfaction. That might be
making a difficult diagnosis or a rewarding patient experience.
“We have a negativity bias,”
Hambley said. “[Physicians should] build a habit of anticipating the positive
and a habit of being grateful. There is research: people who are more grateful
are more resilient to stress.”
Simply looking for what one
enjoys and brings satisfaction sets up a positive expectation, she explained. For
some people, making connections is important and will lead toward the physician
having a more positive day.
Stay in the present
Self-care, mindfulness, emotional
awareness and self-reflection are important aspects of physician well-being,
according to The Collaborative
for Healing and Renewal in Medicine, as noted in the Charter
on Physician Well-being, published in March 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA).
“Research shows people who spend
more time in direct experience—mindfulness—are happier than people who spend
more time in a default mode of thinking about the past and future,” Hambley said.
Change your stress response
Physicians need to figure out what
feeds their soul, and what causes stress.
“You cannot change something
unless you are aware of it,” Hambley said.
A physician may not be able to
avoid stress associated with practicing medicine, but he or she can change how
they respond to it, Hambley said. “Forming a new way of thinking can happen at
Learn to say “No”
Physicians might be able to
limit their commitments at work by learning to say “no.” At least some of the time.
Davis offered three recommendations:
- Don't try to take care of
too many patients
- Never work at home
- Find joy outside of the
office or other practice setting
“Maintaining your own health and well-being are essential
for remaining passionate about your work as a physician,” said Neda
Ratanawongsa, MD, MPH, associate chief health informatics officer for
ambulatory services, San Francisco Health Network, and associate professor of
medicine at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of
for Healing and Renewal in Medicine also cites the importance of healthy
choices, including eating nutritious and healthy foods and exercising.
Eating Well and Exercising Can Make You a Better Physician
Identify intrinsic motivations
Physician motivation can vary
depending on one’s career stage, according to a paper by Ratanawongsa
and colleagues. Extrinsic factors, such as salary or working conditions, do not
lead to long-term satisfaction.
“Career resilience requires that
physicians reflect on and define the sources of their own intrinsic
motivation,” the authors wrote. Intrinsic factors include self-expression,
self-efficacy and altruism
If a physician’s current
position cannot be modified to overcome dissatisfaction, it may be time to find a different physician job. The most recent Survey of
America’s Physicians found that 48 percent of physicians had plans to reduce
their hours, retire, take a nonclinical job, or take other steps to change
their current situation within the next one to three years.
“Find clinical positions that
are a better fit,” Davis said. “It may mean less money, so reduce your spending
and pay down your debt. Less debt equals more choice and freedom.”
Other alternatives worth
considering, according to Davis, include switching to consulting, expert witnessing
or other nonclinical work.
Kristy Ingebo, MD, a pediatric
gastroenterologist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, spends nine months of the year
providing remote consults and recommends other physicians try telemedicine.
“You’re able to relax and focus
on providing the best care without distraction,” Ingebo said.
More and more physicians are
becoming health system employees and giving up private practice and the
financial uncertainty and reimbursement and regulatory burdens for a
“safe, efficient place to treat their patients” according to a recent Merritt
“People feel locked in, but they
lock themselves in,” Hambley said. Everyone has options.
Related blog posts:
How Work Environment Affects
Physician Happiness: 8 Factors
Avoid Physician Burnout: Create
a Healthy Work-Life Balance
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