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Can Your Life Message Help Burnout?

share your message

As many of you know, I’m honored to be invited to give a TEDx talk on July 23rd in Fargo, North Dakota.

What most of you don’t know is that I’ve rewritten my talk over thirty times.

How come?

Well, for starters, like most of us in medicine, I’m a perfectionist. That’s a good thing, right?

Being a perfectionist is good in the O.R. But other times, not so much.

But it’s not all about the perfectionist thing, I’m afraid. I’ve found out some secrets about what other people think.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned about sharing my life message. Some of it’s not too pretty, so be warned.

Wish I could say that I wrote my first draft, tweaked it a couple times, and it’s been smooth sailing since then.

But that’s not how it went down.

I wanted to share our message of physician burnout with the world, and let our patients know that, despite all the negatives in our current medical world, we still love them.

It turns out, my friends, that people are not that concerned about physician burnout. Even if I explain that, as a patient, it would be good for them to know these things. I’m sorry that it’s true. But there. I said it.

When I practiced my talk to groups of non-medical folks, the feedback was, “Those are good stories, but what’s in it for me? Why should I care?”

So, I had to decide: find a message that would resonate with a broader audience and still be a spokesman for our community at Or hope that all the doctors who felt our pain — and our joy — at being in medicine would by magic find my TEDx talk.

I picked “A.”

Honing my message after weeks and weeks and really baring my soul to strangers in my practice audience has taught me some lessons. Lessons that can help you in your world. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Getting to the core of your beliefs makes you strong.

  1. Owning your vulnerability helps others admit theirs.

If we can’t share our heart space, then why are we here?

This is just the tip of the iceberg in my learning curve, I’m afraid. I’m grateful for our international community here and the support from our members that we share.

Stay tuned as the date gets closer. And remember that what you have to share with the world every day is every bit — in fact, more — important as my little talk.

If you have any wisdom on public speaking you’d like to share, so I can represent our community better, please chime in, in the comments below.

We’re all in this together, my friends.






How Being Still Can Help Physician Burnout

being still

Recently I was asked to talk to a special group: the doctors and staff who teach new doctors. I reached out to my community and the suggestions that came pouring in of how to improve physician burnout were amazing.

What I learned is that a key element of guiding young doctors and avoiding burnout is to stop for a minute.

Can you believe that in this hurry-up, multitasking world, I’m suggesting a time out?

It’s not what you think.

The trick isn’t to give yourself a time out (although that can help sometimes). This time out is about patients. Here’s what I really mean by being still:

When you first encounter a patient, whether that patient is new to you or you’ve seen them a dozen times, I’ll bet you have some questions for them:

— What brings you in today?

— How did the treatment I suggested work out?

—What is the number one priority you’d like help with today?

It’s not so different from the questions I ask when I’m coaching doctor clients. Interesting, huh?

Here’s what I’ve learned is the most important part of these encounters:

Being still.

As medical folks, we are problem solvers. Am I right? We need to give our patients, our clients, our families the tools to solve problems.

What happens if we jump in before they can find their answers?

Without letting others solve their problems, we are perpetuating the cycle.

Sure, we need to guide others. Give our prescriptions, whether they be pharmaceuticals or suggestions that don’t require a stop at the drug store.

And then we have to stop. And see what happens next.

The next step that’s taken is the one that matters.

Have you ever told a child how to make their bed? Or set the table? Or rake leaves?

What happened? If you’re lucky, they did an okay job and got better each time.

But when we let the pain of perfection interfere, we’ll go back and remake that bed. Sound familiar?

Being still and allowing others to tell us, or show us, where they are can help us both.

It helps us know what works and doesn’t work going forward.

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The average time it takes a physician to interrupt a patient is thirty seconds.

So next time you start up the conversation with your patient, allow time to be still and know.

Know that listening to how they’ve reacted to your suggestions, how it worked out for them (or didn’t) can provide you priceless information to help them going forward.

And moving forward toward our goals is what we’re here for, after all.