Cheerful African American doctor communicating with young couple in doctor's office.

With all of the stresses of dealing with dysfunctional EHRs, increased regulations and administrative tasks, practicing medicine has become disillusioning for many physicians and providers. Many have sought creative ways to reenergize, or to reignite their passion for medicine.

Participate in interests outside of medicine

“For me, finding things to do that make me happy outside of medicine helps reinvigorate me. For the last 16 years, I have been playing hockey with a group of physicians and others from our community on Sunday nights. I spend half the week getting ready and excited for the game, and the next half of the week reliving the highlights—and most often—incredible failures of my hour and a half on the ice,” says Don Dextor, MD the Wisconsin Medical Societies Chief Medical Officer.[1]

There are other strategies and techniques employed by physicians and providers to maintain a positive attitude and to keep satisfaction and joy in practice.

Engage in volunteer work

“One way to break free of the frustrating aspects of practicing medicine is to volunteer your medical services, “ says Kate Fincham, director of program support for Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO).

“The most common comment made in our trip reports is ‘ this trip reminded me of why I went into medicine in the first place’,’” says Fincham. “That’s because they’re doing medicine. They’re not doing insurance. They’re not given only 10 minutes with a patient and told they’re not allowed to take any longer than that. It does give them personal and professional fulfillment.”[2]

Talk to peers

It’s important to be able to talk with peers about the challenges you are facing. That connection can help to normalize your feelings and reactions, move on from frustrations that may be plaguing you and can expose you to other perspectives which may be useful to you.

In October 2000 Jennifer Bush from Family Practice Management, the online magazine of AAFP, interviewed William Zeckhausen, DMin, a pastoral counselor and facilitator of physician support groups in New Hampshire.[3]

In the interview Dr. Zeckhausen stated, “Physicians attend (groups) not because they’re impaired and trying to resolve some pathology, but rather because they see the group as a personal and professional resource to help their functioning as physicians and as people.”

He acknowledged finding such a group may be a challenge, and as a solution he suggests physicians and providers look for four to eight peers who would be interested in meeting regularly.

Find your own solution

In an article in Medical Economics[4] consultant Jack Valancy from Cleveland Heights Ohio offers advice on finding a personal solution for increasing joy in medicine. Valancy recommends starting by imagining you have had a great day at work. “Identify what made the day great,” he says. “Was it the presence of interesting or challenging cases? Appreciative patients? Working alongside good colleagues? A day that flowed smoothly? Now recall a terrible day at work. What made it terrible? Routine or boring cases? Hostile or otherwise difficult patients? Conflicts with coworkers? Severe time pressure?”

Next, think about what you can do to increase the positive elements and reduce—or eliminate—the negative elements. “If you’re unhappy with your patient panel, what can you do to cultivate the types of cases you enjoy?” Valancy says. “You might trade assignments with a colleague, or reach out to community groups in an effort to attract more interesting clinical cases.”

Work is being done at all levels to address physician and provider burnout and disillusionment. Professional groups, healthcare organizations, universities, researchers and more are investing time and resources to look for macro solutions to mitigating stress and burnout and increasing joy in medicine. One example is the study, In Search of Joy in Practice: A Report of 23 High-Functioning Primary Care Practice[5]. A key finding for them was the importance of sharing the workload with other members of the care team and the use of scribes to assist with charting. When the workload was more manageable, reports of job satisfaction and actual joy were higher.

We can help.

VITAL WorkLife can also help. As part of your benefit through VITAL WorkLife, you have unlimited telephone consultations with consultants who can provide guidance in discovering how to restore joy in you medical practice. If you would like more focused work in this area, Peer Coaching is great way to address it. To speak with a consultant or a Peer Coach give us a call at 877.731.3949. We’re available anytime, day or night.

Call VITAL WorkLife at 877.731.3949 any time, day or night, for the support you and your family need.






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