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Physician, Build Your Own Ship

Looking back over the past month it's been very rewarding to see the growth of Freelance MD.

It was interesting to read Jeff's recent blog post about Freelance MD's first 30 days and the resonance this site has had with physicians. Freelance MD was created to offer physicians objective, credible information on a variety of topics that are important to modern physicians. We knew going in to this project that there was no other place on the web like this, and we felt that the topics that we would be discussing would fill an important void.  Based on our numbers, it appears others agree with us. Jeff and I sincerely hope you're finding the site to be informative and encouraging.

In thinking about the growth of Freelance MD and the beginning of the Medical Fusion Conference, I began to think more about physicians and their careers. I'm in a rather unique place when it comes to the issue of physicians and their career issues. First, I'm a physician. Second, I come from a family of medical people (my cousin is a medical student, my father and brother are surgeons, my sister is a medical malpractice defense attorney, and my mom is an elected official who sponsored medical malpractice tort reform in my home state). Third, I run two national conferences and come into contact with physicians from multiple specialties who practice all over the country. All of this exposure to many types of physicians allows me a lot of opportunity to discuss the idea of physician career modification and what physicians can be doing to improve their situation.

When the issue of career modification comes up in conversation with my physician friends, it seems that many are frustrated with their clinical practices, but they seem completely overwhelmed by the thought of making a change. These friends are like the survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island who are sitting on the beach in stunned shock realizing they're now marooned. They're so overwhelmed with the shock and horror of the crash that they haven't moved past the shock to the point of working towards their survival and, hopefully, escape from the island. They're still sitting in the sand, wailing, "We've crashed! We've crashed! We're all alone!  How will we survive? What are we going to do!??!!!"

Look, I'm not saying things are rosy and we shouldn't have concerns. I think it's obvious to everyone that the medical profession has crashed. Gone are the days when being an excellent clinician is the only worry of a physician. Today's physicians have to balance clinical excellence with billing codes, patient satisfaction scores, duplicitous administrators, underhanded trial lawyers, and a government bureaucracy seemingly intent on driving the entire healthcare industry into the dirt. It's not a great situation to be in and if there ever was a time when one would be justified a little despair, now is that time.

However, what I've found amazing about Freelance MD and the Medical Fusion Conference is that in spite of all this doom and gloom in medicine, there are a number of talented individuals who are not just surviving the current environment, they're thriving. These people aren't sitting in the sand weeping over their losses, they've moved off the beach and have taken active, deliberate steps to improve their situation.  

I'm reminded of the quip from the author G.K. Chesterton who, when asked by a journalist what book he would most want to have with him if he was ever marooned on a deserted island, said, "Why, A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding, of course..." 

The leaders I've met—many of whom are authors on this website—are inspirational because they aren't just moaning about how horrible the crash has been on them or waiting passively on the beach for someone to rescue them. No, these leaders are out in the jungle, foraging for food, building shelter, scouting out the island for opportunities and, most importantly, building a vessel to get them off the island when the timing is right.

If these individuals have been so successful in making the transition, why then are so many physicians still moribund, stewing in despair and learned helplessness? Why is making the change so difficult for many physicians?

There are a lot of theories about this and there are many individuals writing on Freelance MD who have been addressing this very issue, but it's important to note what appears to be a universal truth:  many physicians are having a difficult time adjusting their careers to the current reality around them.

As we build Freelance MD, one of my personal goals is to build this site in a way that offers very practical, systematic steps for physicians to begin taking control of their careers, shaking off the learned helplessness in which they've been festering, and begin working on their "ship" to get them off their deserted island and back on the road to adventure and a more fulfilling career.

Are you interested?  

If so, join our motley crew and learn from the experts on this site. Get involved and ask questions. Contribute to the community and teach others what you're learning. In short, get started, right now, making the transition for yourself.

The time for sand-wallowing is over.  

It's time to build your own ship.

Reader Comments (5)

The question: If these individuals have been so successful in making the transition, why then are so many physicians still moribund, stewing in despair and learned helplessness? Why is making the change so difficult for many physicians?

Entrepreneurship is not for most people. It entails embracing risk and uncertainty. Even with the litany of challenges faced by doctors, there are few careers that guarantee six figures. Just a thought.

Dec 21 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Segal

I agree that entrepreneurship is not everyone's cup of tea. In fact, my experience suggests about 5% of a medical staff or faculty will be interested.

Secondly, giving up a no-brainer six figure salary usally is about creating meaning (however you define it) , not money.

The entrepreneur believes that the risk of loss of six figure income will be offset by either (a) a more meaningful career; or (b) replacement of that income - eventually - if the market finds the innovation worthwhile. Or the best scenario - (a) and (b) both happen...

Dec 21 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Segal

My colleague ( a physician) is quick to point out that most docs are followers, rather than leaders. We'd rather have someone do it first (try a new medication for instance), then us do it ourselves. We're trained to minimize risk and follow standard procedures .

@ Jeff Segal "why then are so many physicians still moribund, stewing in despair and learned helplessness?"

Unfortunately, this is the human condition and not applicable to physicians any more than the general population I'd guess. Most individuals will choose security over opportunity every time. Entrepreneurs do not. Of course, the security minded are needed as well. Who else are entrepreneurs to build businesses for if not the jobbed masses. The world needs ditch-diggers too.

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