May is Mental Health Awareness Month. So, often we focus on physical health without addressing mental health until there's a problem.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, especially for physicians who are dealing with high levels of stress and exhaustion.
It is more than the absence of mental illness. The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.
It can sometimes feel hard to find the time to support your mental health when you're already feeling stressed and exhausted.
Believe it or not, taking a few simple steps each day to intentionally care for your mental and emotional well-being can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Allow this month of awareness to be the impetus to develop habits and discover strategies that can improve your mental health.
Here are some tips that can help:
If you know of a physician or health care professional that could benefit from these tips, please share this article with them.
You never know what someone is going through (so many in the medical community are suffering in silence). This could be the thing that starts the conversation.
4/30/2023 0 Comments
How To Reimagine Your Medical Career When You're Feeling Burned Out and Unfulfilled
As a physician, you have spent years developing a wealth of expertise and experience in the clinical setting. However, the demands of the job can be intense, leading many physicians to feel burned out and unfulfilled.
If you are a physician who is feeling exhausted and looking to reimagine your career, here are some tips that may help:
1. Identify your passions and interests outside of medicine
Take some time to reflect on your hobbies, interests, and passions outside of medicine. These could include anything from writing and art to business and technology. Identifying your passions can help you to explore non-clinical career options that align with your values and bring you joy.
2. Consider your transferable skills
As a physician, you have developed a wide range of skills that are valuable in many non-clinical careers. These skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, leadership, and teamwork. Think about how you can leverage these skills in a new career.
3. Network with others
Reach out to other physicians who have successfully transitioned to non-clinical careers. Attend conferences and events that are relevant to your interests and meet people who can provide guidance and support. Join online communities and engage with others who are going through similar transitions.
4. Explore non-clinical career options
There are many non-clinical career options available to physicians. These include careers in healthcare administration, medical writing, medical consulting, pharmaceuticals, research, and education. Research different options and think about how your skills and interests align with each one.
5. Consider further education
Depending on the nonclinical career you are interested in, you may need to pursue further education or certification. This could include a Master's degree in business administration, public health, or healthcare administration. Consider the time and financial commitment required before making a decision.
Remember, transitioning to a non-clinical career can take time and effort, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Stay focused on your goals, seek support from others, and be open to new possibilities.
If you're thinking about leaving clinical medicine and would like some support on your nonclinical career journey, let's talk.
Schedule a complimentary and confidential Physician Career Path Strategy Session with me. Click here to access my online calendar.
One of my favorite Sunday rituals is to prepare for the coming week. It takes about an hour, including meal planning, updating my calendar, and identifying the top priorities.
But it wasn’t always this way.
There was a time when I dreaded Sundays (that is if I wasn’t already working). It meant the start of a new work week. And work no longer felt fulfilling. Instead, feelings of fulfillment were replaced with dread.
This was one of the first signs that told me it was time to think about doing something else.
Sometimes we are so busy working that we don’t notice the subtle, and not so subtle, indicators that something has gone wrong.
Here are a few signs that you may be ready for a career (or job) change:
Your dread for work starts on Sunday
If you are off but your thoughts are focused on work for most of the day, this one probably applies to you.
This can include planning, ruminating, and complaining.
Some physicians I work with also describe physical symptoms like headache, palpitations, muscle tension, and GI symptoms.
If this happens for you most Sundays, it may be time to consider if it’s time for a change.
You secretly cheer when a patient doesn’t show up
This was me. Not because I didn’t want to see patients, but because a no show might allow me a few minutes to catch up on charting, phone calls, or just some time to breathe and get my bearings.
Plus it meant one less chart to do for that day.
At some point I realized that one of the things I looked forward to most when I started clinical practice was seeing patients.
If I was cheering for them to miss appointments, it was time to look within and ask myself if this was still what I wanted to do.
You find it almost impossible to consistently practice basic self-care
When you spend your days helping others to improve their health and well-being, it feels hypocritical to not take your own advice.
The pace of most clinical practice schedules make it challenging to eat well, move more, and get restorative sleep.
It feels like there is no time for preparing nutritious meals, working out, or getting enough sleep and rest.
Ask yourself what you might need to make small, but meaningful changes to improve these areas while you decide if a longer-term plan is needed to impact this area.
Work has taken over your entire life
Also known as work creep, you may find that it has invaded all areas of your life. Even when you’re not physically at work, you may be taking care of work responsibilities at home.
My then partner, now wife, would say to me that even though I was home, I wasn’t really home.
Although my physical body was home, my mind was elsewhere thinking about the toilet training handout I forgot to give to a mom, or worried about the 6-month old former preemie with fever that I sent to the ER.
In the beginning, you may say to yourself that you’re just in a busy season. At some point, you may find that it’s not just a season; it’s busy all the time.
Know that this level of busyness has a cost attached - it affects the quality of your relationships with your family, friends, and most importantly, yourself.
The moments of frustration far outweigh the moments of joy
If I ask you to share examples of your frustration with work versus the things that bring you joy, which list would be longer?
Are you in touch with the moments of joy sprinkled throughout your work day or have they been overshadowed by the annoyances of the day?
I encourage you to do this exercise: get a piece of blank paper and draw a line down the middle - on one side write down all the things that contribute to your sense of unhappiness with work and on the other side write down all the things that bring you joy and satisfaction.
Carry it with you over the next week and add to it. What do you notice?
When you’re looking for the moments of joy and still can’t find enough to balance the moments of frustration, it may be time to consider a change.
You feel undervalued and unappreciated more often than not
When your efforts are not acknowledged and appreciated, it can feel like people are taking advantage of you.
The danger is that the longer you feel this way, the more likely it is that you will begin to devalue the contributions you make.
After my own transition, I noticed how much I had dismissed the value that I bring to my work, team, and environment.
Being in this nonclinical position has reminded me of how much I have to offer and more importantly, how much an organization can place on that value through compensation, promotion, and undisclosed incentives.
You regularly feel exhausted and overwhelmed by work
It can be mentally and emotionally draining to work in an environment that doesn’t feel supportive.
The external pressures of the work, including the high stakes of life-or-death decisions, is compounded by the internal pressures we put on ourselves to be perfect in a world where perfection is expected, but not possible.
We are human. And to my knowledge, humans are not perfect. None of us.
If you are feeling burned out, take action to address it. Find someone you trust and ask for help.
And if you are feeling hopeless and considering suicide, please seek help.
You can reach out to The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
You have a choice. You can leverage your medical degree to make a meaningful impact outside of clinical practice.
You know in your gut
Sometimes all it takes is being still long enough to hear the whispers that are telling you that it’s time to go.
I knew in my gut for years that it was time to leave medicine. But, I didn’t trust it.
So, I kept myself busy so I wouldn’t have to think about this decision.
And I continued to make changes in an effort to feel better. Nothing really helped in the long-term because I wasn’t addressing the core issue.
Your gut doesn’t lie. Listen to it.
You’re reading this
There is a reason that you decided to invest your precious time to read this article.
Take that to heart.
The above signs are just a few. I experienced several of the signs on the list. And so have many of the physicians I coach who are considering a departure from clinical practice.
Think of these signs as dashboard indicators. If the light is on it’s trying to get your attention.
You can ignore it, minimize it, or dismiss it. But the problem will still be there.
If you’re ready to explore what may exist for you beyond clinical practice, let’s talk.
Click here to schedule some time on my online calendar or send me a confidential message.
Life Beyond Clinical Practice with Dr. Michelle Bailey
Hi, I'm Dr. Michelle Bailey.
I help physicians who are unhappy or unsatisfied with their current career find a nonclinical career that they love.
Retiring early from clinical practice after almost 20 years as a board-certified pediatrician I successfully made the leap and transitioned to a nonclinical career.
I'm thriving in my new career and am on a mission to help other physicians do the same with the support, guidance, and community that I wish I had when I was struggling with this decision.
You're invited to connect with me in my private Facebook community for physicians to learn about all things related to your nonclinical career transition. Join here.
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