By Editor, Concierge Medicine Today
A lot of Physician’s are at a weird place right now. A metaphorical, emotional and quite real, waiting room.
But let’s back up. Have you ever sat in a strange medical office waiting room and been the patient, without the practice knowing your background or history? You’ve just been like everyone else, waiting. This can an exercise in humility that may appear like a waste of time but the more Physician’s we talk to each week are finding themselves in this metaphorical, self-reflective period of time where they are questioning their career, their past and what life in medicine will look like for them in the future.
You know you’re in the period of time some authors call the waiting room when you’re asking yourself, ‘Do I quit my day job to pursue my dream job? How much longer can I do this?’ Or, as author Carey Neiuhof in his book At Your Best writes and I’ll paraphrase You find yourself creating an escape and think of having a career moving boxes or driving a taxi as a better future than the one you have.
This waiting room period is usually referred to and seen by most Physicians years later as a period of self-reflection, overcoming self-doubt, fear and a time in your career and life when you are just searching for information and answers. And, isn’t it true that action is the anecdote for fear? More often that not, this waiting room can feel like you are just waiting for answers that never come.
If you’ve been around the business of medicine for any amount of time you know better than anyone that life, like your the tasks of running your own practice will give you lemonade one day and a big bag of lemons the next. Without warning as well. How ’bout them apples? Or rather, lemons?!
One of my mentors, Jeff Henderson, author of the book Know What You Are For and What To Do Next: Taking Your Best Next Step When Life Is Uncertain recently blogged the following that I wanted to move to the front of the line in healthcare. He writes, “You can’t microwave character, endurance, persistence, and grit … There’s a risk in staying. There’s risk in going. There’s even a risk in staying too long. How do you balance a career risk with so much on the line?”
Unfortunately, most Physicians feel like even asking the questions “what should I do next?” is a betrayal to Patients and their colleagues alike. But you know as well as I do that way too many Physicians right now are at a crossroads in their career. And like The Clash song says “Should I stay or should I go?”
Most face the hamster wheel. Continuing to move forward with no autonomy, no control, often times abuse, long hours or worse, suicide. Or, should they take a risk, spend a lot of money, time and explore the unknown?
The answer is, there’s no easy answer. For example, one Physician we recall years ago informed us that if he hadn’t found Concierge Medicine, as one example, was that he was going to relinquish his medical degree and become a florist.
A florist! By the way, you might not know this but that’s a stressful business too! So, be nice to the florist next time you run into one. 🙂
“When we find ourselves in the waiting room, we have three paths to choose from,” writes Jeff. “Waiting passively. Waiting recklessly. Waiting actively … Waiting passively is when we conclude that life is completely out of our control and we can’t do anything to move ourselves forward—kind of like being stuck in a doctor’s office and thinking you can do nothing about it…Waiting recklessly is when our frustration boils over and we leap toward the best available option. We’re exhausted from being put on hold, so we hang up and move. I completely understand, but the stories of waiting recklessly are the ones I heard often as a pastor. This kind of waiting can create some deep scars…Waiting actively is when we combine wisdom, patience, and an intentional plan to leverage this season. There actually is something we should be doing while we wait. It’s not the land of passivity; it’s not the land of being on hold. It’s the land of wisdom.”
I love that piece of career wisdom. And, that really is wisdom.
Isn’t it true that when you met your spouse all those years ago that if you hadn’t opened yourself up to the possibility of marriage, children or building a life together that you would never have experienced some of life’s greatest joys? Without risk you would’ve missed the grandkids birth. Without risk you might have never seen the birth of your kids. Without risk, you could have missed out on celebrating your daughters graduation from medical school last year?
“You need to play it wisely, but you don’t need to play it safe,” said Jeff in his Next book. “That said, the truth is, there are some things you’ll never know or experience until you open your hands and let go.”
The fact is that life is full of risk. It’s not something we can avoid. If you’re a spiritual person, and I know many of you reading this are, you probably have a very clear understanding that risk is part of life, maybe even a necessary part of the adventure. That said, the idea of trying something new, having a deeper and maybe even extended conversation about your next move in the business of medicine can be scary. In fact, downright intimidating.
“You can’t eliminate risk, but you can reduce it,” adds Jeff. “Risk is inevitable, but so is reward when we manage the risk. Sometimes the riskiest decision isn’t to leave. Sometimes the riskiest decision is to stay … The path to your dream job often leads through your day job … Remember the pathway to what’s next: Start where you are. Use what you have … The best form of momentum is a more emotionally healthy you. In fact, the more emotionally healthy you are, the better investigator you will become because you can spot the momentum in your life easier.”
That leads us today to one last central point before we get to the self-reflection part of the story. Who is with you in the waiting room?
“One of the most helpful decisions I’ve ever made is developing a personal advisory board,” write Jeff. “I picked up this idea from author Jim Collins. He was being interviewed about his book Good to Great when I heard him say something that changed my life: “If Coca-Cola has a board of advisors, you should too … Remember this: what to do next is built largely on who you talk to next.”
One of mistakes we often hear from Physician’s years later is that they didn’t take into account who was seated near or next to them in this metaphorical waiting room. Perhaps it was your adult kids. They have an opinion they probably have been holding in until they find the right time. Maybe it’s your spouse. Or, maybe it is your best friend who does not practice medicine like you, but knows you better than you know yourself.
“One of the most freeing decisions you can make is to let people be wrong about you,” writes Jeff. “The scariest place to be is the same place as last year. No growth, no challenges. Just the same.”
The fact is, you’re doing life with someone right now. To help make the most of your own waiting room period, we encourage you to ask some of the right questions. There’s plenty of knowledgeable people out there who can help you. You just have to have the courage to ask.
If you’re thinking about what might be your next career move in medicine, here are a few questions to consider asking yourself. More importantly, asking others around you who are seated near you and doing life in this waiting room with you.
- If I pursue this … (Whatever this might be for you!) … will I have the freedom to use my medical talents to explore what I am passionate about? — This is probably the most important question to ask yourself and others. When you ask yourself, your colleagues and your spouse and all those around you in the waiting room those age-old questions, “should you stay or should you go?” — what you really should be asking is “How much opportunity do I have to grow, personally, professionally, financially? Will I have the freedom to use my medical talents to explore what I am passionate about? For some that’s diabetes management. For other Physician’s we’ve talked to it is reading and digesting new studies on specific health conditions that intrigue them. And for some, it’s learning how to run a practice and be a better Lifestyle Medicine or Primary Care Doctor to their community. As Jeff writes, “… that answer alone should bring some clarity. And here’s why: if there’s no room to grow, it’s time to go.”
- What will happen to my Patients if I do or do not do this? (Whatever this might be for you!)
- What if this doesn’t work? What happens then? How can I manage the risk better right now if this fails?
- How will my life, my practice and my family look different in one year, three years and ten years?
- What do I want a typical Monday morning to look like?
- How do I manage staff that are not on board with my own version of this?
- How can I prepare to manage patient expectations so I don’t get taken advantage of by others?
- Based on your experience, do you think I have what it takes to do this?
- Do I have the character traits to make this work?
- What if I want to take a vacation?
- How much opportunity do I have to grow, personally, professionally, financially doing this?
- What if I want to move, leave, sell the practice or move my family? What are the termination or exit terms and how can I leave well, this?
- What is required of me right now to do this?
- If I’m not ready, what is required to make this work for me in the future?
- Ask peers who are where you want to be some of these types of questions that you respect. Think of it as references and you are interviewing them on how they achieved success and what advice they may or may not have for you.
Nearly 100% of the Physician’s I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and now years later am privileged to call my friends … to this day recognize that their calling is to be a Physician. As Jeff writes, “Some callings have seasons. Some are forever. To discern between the two, you can’t go solely on calling; you must discern your gifting.”
If you’re trying to explore more and want to learn more about things like Concierge Medicine, your next move in healthcare or what healthcare could be and should be for you … then we have a space, a group of people and a community in healthcare that you should consider. It’s the industry’s annual conference called the Concierge Medicine Forum. And, you’ll connect with, learn from and be encouraged by experts in the business of medicine and your Physician colleagues alike. It’s happening in Atlanta, GA USA this October 19-21, 2023. To learn more, visit: https://www.conciergemedicinetoday.net/.