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Entries in Physician Career Change (22)


Working In Jeans: Life Replaces Career

It’s been more than three months since stepping down from ACPE.  Like many of the readers of this site, I’m in a transitional period.  After nearly four years of big responsibility - 24/7, 365 - the change to part-time work in health care has been wonderful!  Our lives, careers, events, and people are interconnected, but sometimes we have to make an effort to see those connections in hindsight.

I’m taking an Improv class now that I have more time.  After hearing that two of my role models for presentation skills attributed their success to Improv classes, I decided to try it.  Just as my friends told me the secret of Improv, I’ll share it with you.  Two or three words: “Yes.....And”, or “Always say Yes”.  

The point of Improv is to always keep the conversation going, and to link improbable thoughts.  All too often in business and health care, that doesn’t happen.  People frequently try to stop conversations and ideas from moving forward.  “That won’t work”.  “We tried that before.”  “There’s no money in the budget for that.”  Or my favorite: dead silence.  If we can laugh as hard in business as we do in our novice attempts at Improv when an idea moves through its zig zag path from the absurd to the sublime, we will be better off.  We’ll also provoke new ways of thinking or seeing something differently.

Like most of you, my life since finishing medical school has been pretty much pedal to the metal in private practice, management roles, and family responsibilities.  Mix in regular periodic sleep deprivation to the physician’s life of self and family sacrifice for patients and the expectations of our profession, and it becomes very difficult to step back and assess who we are, and how we want to live our lives.  It seemed like I always knew what my life was about, but seldom had the proper time and circumstances to reflect on the more existential questions.

I decided to continue doing health care related work no more than half-time after leaving  ACPE.  One part practical, another part passion for improving health care, the experiences from working at the bedside to the boardroom provide insight that I like to share with health system leaders - both clinical and non-clinical.  Now, as a free agent, I can be more provocative and take more risks in advocating for better leadership for health care.  For example, at the American College of Cardiology’s January leadership meeting in Las Vegas, the title of my topic was, “Venus and Mars: Why Can’t Hospital Administrators and Physicians Get Along?”  They chose the title, but I was excited about laying out the multiple reasons for conflict - and providing some ways to move beyond conflict to cooperation.  Judging by audience feedback, and the feeling of “flow” as I spoke, I hope to have more opportunities like that. 

Just before arriving in Las Vegas for the ACC meeting, I returned from my second visit to Saudi Arabia as an ACPE faculty member for a physician leadership development program at a major health system there.  The system’s determination to learn “American” principles of leadership, teamwork, and management was absolutely refreshing and motivating for me, and for Marty Martin, my fellow faculty member, and now frequent travel companion to the Middle East. 

In addition to being a witness to the profound changes happening in the world through international programs like this, I found myself enjoying even the unanticipated events associated with travel abroad: Missing a connecting flight in Amsterdam, and spending a night in that city; meeting Marty the next morning in the airline lounge for one of our usual discussions about insights into American health 

care (it feels like there’s ample time to listen when we’re far from home); and tagging along with Harry, the Dutch engineer with the gigantic handle bar mustache who was the only person in the Saudi customs lines that got smiles from the Saudi officials.  He sat next to Marty on the flight, and I’m sure our experience in customs would have been less cheery had Harry not given the impression that we were friends of his.

My attraction to international work continues.  I’ve also gotten involved in an interesting project based in China, with an American political connection.  Too early to tell if it will come to completion, I know it might never have come my way if I hadn’t traveled to China and Tibet in 2005.  On that trip I remember being drawn to the Tibetan symbol for interconnectedness, which was in all of the monasteries, including the Potala Palace, built in the 7th century, and home to several Dalai Lamas.  That symbol is prominently in my thoughts as I contemplate spending more time in the Himalaya doing something useful. 

Now the morning chill is gone, the snow is melting, and it’s time to resume my stonemasonry project that’s been on hold for too long.  Though my thoughts and activities are on a zig zag pattern, the stones are coming together in a beautiful, interconnected pattern that pleases my eye.


Another Great Medical Fusion Conference

I just returned from presenting again this year at the 2011 Medical Fusion Conference - what I think is the best conference out there for physicians who are exploring non-clinical career options.

Once again it was a engaged group of docs who brought an openness and curiosity around "what else is out there" for themselves.  Held at the beautiful Aria Resort in Las Vegas, it also had a great faculty line-up, which included Dr. Barry Silbaugh, recently retired CEO of ACPE, who gave a great opening talk on "Leaving the Tribe" and why it is so difficult for many physicians to consider a move outside of clinical practice.  There was Dr. Ken Cohn, a fabulous speaker and all around great person who spearheads Healthcare Collaboration, got everyone on their feet and doing some hands-on activities during his two talks on "Should I Get An MBA?" and "Independent Consulting". Dr. Greg Bledsoe, the conference founder and Expedition Medicine expert, thrilled and grossed us all out with pictures of his many adventures in different countries and on different mountain tops.  Dr. Julie Silver, of Harvard Health Publications and an inspiring cancer survivorship advocate, spoke not only about writing and publishing a book, but she also got people fired up about how to get Information Products out on the web and making a difference!  These were just a few of the interesting and enlightening talks that were part of the two days.

My talk focused on the "how" of career transition, giving the physician participants a roadmap for making their process - and non-clinical landing place - a sustainable one.  It is always refreshing to get out in front of this group, and to help provide them with some tools for growth.  

I think my favorite part of the conference is watching the participant group connect with each other and feel the collective energy they build.  Given the fact that transitioning out of clinical practice is still somewhat of  a taboo subject among physicians, it is great to see the openness and shared momentum that the group picks up over the course of the three days. 

At the end of each conference my hope is that all of the great physicians I meet and talk to are able to maintain the clarity, focus and momentum that they build while they are in Las Vegas.  If anything, this conference gives everyone the chance to step back and assess their own professional direction, compare it with other peoples' paths, and think honestly if there is a better road for them than the one they are on... and if there is, start to make progress to make their goals - and true professional fulfillment - a reality.

For all of you that were there, I wish you best of luck in your career exploration and expansion into "post-clinical" work.

For those of you who weren't there, I hope we'll see you there next year!


10 Ideas To Spark Health Care Change

What does the future hold for other industries? We can use these ideas as a springboard in our medicine culture.

A recent article from the online and print magazine Inc. titled: "10 Cool New Tech Ideas to Help You Market Your Business" showcases many innovative approaches that businesses are utilizing to engage their customers. While I think that these ideas are worth viewing from the marketing perspective, I think there is also great value in changing the perspective to view these ideas in terms of medicine and health care.

Specifically, how can we embrace these visionary ideas to help transform medicine towards a brighter future? Let's dive right in:

1) Facial recognition: imagine pulling out your iPhone or Android and taking a facial recognition photo and sending it to your doctor via your EHR platform. The software could read your facial expressions, wrinkles, and blemishes and compare this to a facial photo from 6 weeks or 6 months ago. Do you have difficulty sleeping (dark circles under your eyes), are you more stressed than usual (deeper wrinkle set) or are you getting too much sun (deeper skin blemishes)? The potential here is enormous.

2) Hyper Targeting: imagine being able to make recommendations to patients based upon pre-determined factors such as age, fitness level, diagnosis, medicine, supplements, etc. The software for this type of process already exists--we would just need to tweak it to make it work for health issues. So, patient Jane who shares characteristics with patient Mary could receive updates providing ideas for cooking, exercises, book choices, etc. This would not only personalize Jane's experience but also have the potential to improve her outcome as a patient.

3) Eavsdropping Apps: maybe we should rephrase this one as Preference Apps: allow patients to tell us about their lifestyle choices by what they focus on. Again, we could use the EHR as a platform where the patient would allow access to her smartphone apps, book, food, exercise preferences and we could then gain better insight into how the patient lives and walks. We could then make better holistic recommendations to her regarding all aspects of her life. As we know, health is more about our choices than anything else.

4) Augmented Reality: I have written about this before...I truly think that medicine and health will embrace the gaming of our society and incorporate virtual health/ medicine in a gaming type of structure. Doctors and patients will be able to interact in a meaningful way via a Sims like game-style approach. I'm excited to see this come to fruition.

5) Mobile: Codes and Spot Targeting: At first glance this one does not seem to fit into a future of medicine model, but I think we can be creative and start incorporating these Quick Response (QR) codes onto prescription meds and health related products. Maybe a patient can scan the code to learn about the side effects of medicine or be taken to a link to a forum where people are using this same medicine? Not sure, but there are many possibilities with this technology.

6) Video: the other day my kids and I were waiting outside in the car while my wife mailed some packages--we sent each other video texts back and forth to amuse each other while we all waited. We can do the same with patients--sending them quick, relevant and timely text messages could mean the world to them.

7) Incentives and Virtual Currency: we are seeing a thrust of different games and Apps that allow users to "win" points to be used elsewhere. We can do the same in medicine. We already see how well the Wii fitness games have pushed us in the same direction. We can take this several steps further where patients who play these games get points towards supplement purchases, coupons off medicines or office visits, etc. 

8) Social analytics: We need this in medicine to help us get a sense of how well we are reaching out to our patients/ clients. The faster we adopt the approach that seeks to reward physicians based upon how well they communicate with patients, the better. We have the tools for this, but are lacking in the will right now.

9) Web: this one is fairly obvious....we all have websites, but how can we interact with our patients better and make the web experience more valuable to each of them? This will be a perpetual challenge for time to come.

10) Deals: our patients are consumers and the sooner we create a practice environment that embraces this notion, the better. Who isn't looking for a deal? In medicine we tend to shy away from this mentality as we don't want to be too salesy, but the more confidence we have in the product we are selling, the less we are actually selling. In health and medicine we have been focused to acutely on the medicines themselves as the prescriptions, but the better product is the connections with our patients. So why not create better deals to help you connect with your patients?

I am sure that you can take these ideas and run with them in more expansive ways than I have. Change often occurs faster when we take advantage of "outsider" ideas and perspectives. We are all here because we are seeking much more than the routine medicine has shown us. These ideas can serve as a spark to help get you going. 




Transition Tool For Physicians #1: Turning Your CV Into A Resume

In my coaching work with physicians, one of my favorite things that many of my clients do is send me their CV so that I can get a feel for who they are and what they've done.

Those CVs, while usually an impressive (and lengthy) foray into their education, academic experience, clinical positions and copious lectures and publications, often leave me still questioning who they are are what they bring to the table when considering a career outside of the clinical realm.

You know your CV:  a long list of your academic degrees, certifications, clinical positions, appointments and publications.  By now in your career it is probably 10-20 pages at least.  It reflects your professional position and progression.  But it has no place in a non-clinical career search.

Let me tell you why.

Industries outside of medicine are not the place for drawn-out reviews of where you've been, what you've done.  Instead of a CV, these environments require you to have a resume, a persuasive document that reflects who you are (your unique combination of skills, experiences and passion), and what you've accomplished (that is, problems you've solved) as a professional.

The best resumes also reflect how you will be able to solve the particular need / problem that your target industry or company faces.  They are tailored and individualized to the reader.

Granted, developing a resume like this take work.  Many docs, who yes, are extremely busy, decide that they want to skip this step and instead turn their 20-page CV over to a professional resume writing service that within a few weeks (and hundreds of dollars later) turns back to them a polished, slick, great-sounding resume.  But here's the problem:  often those resumes are just that, great "sounding", but with the guts that describe you and helps the prospective employer understand how you will add value to them.  A great-sounding resume can begin to feel very hollow if it doesn't address the unique challenges of a target industry (company, job role, etc.) but instead speaks in generalities of skills or experience.  It will quickly find itself on the pile of many other great-sounding resumes, which are also devoid of real content that brings (and keeps) employers' attention.

 You need to change your CV to a resume, and you need to make it stand out.  So how do you start?

Get to know the difference between a CV and a resume

CVs are typically lists of your "vitals":  your education, employment, research, publications, awards, patents, etc.  Resumes are meant to be persuasive descriptions of who you are and what you bring to the table, ones that demonstrate to any given reader that you can solve their unique business problem.  Your resume is less about you... instead it should tell your prospective employer what you can do for them.

Learn how to speak to your experience/expertise as a set of accomplishments

Rather than listing out previous job responsibilities or skills, look at your background in terms of the results you've achieved.  Think hard about what you've accomplished over the course of your career so far, brainstorm them out and frame your professional experience around those.

Use powerful, persuasive words to frame your accomplishments

Not just sound-bites (which can come off as "sales-pitchy"), but actual challenges you've faced, things you've done to address them, and results you've achieved ... particularly as they relate to the position/company/industry you're interested in.

Tailor it to resonate with whoever is reading your resume

Recognize that your resume is a living document - it will change and morph over time, with the addition of new accomplishments and different audiences who read it.  Your first pass is just that - your first pass.  Make sure your resume evolves along with you - update it regularly and for whoever is considering it.

Keep your resume in its place

Developing their resume is often the first place an eager, ambitious physician wants to start.  But recognize that in the grand scheme of physician career transition, the creation of a resume is not the number one step in a successful career transformation!  It is not likely that your big-break, your non-clinical job, or your "big opportunity" will come as a result of an impressive piece of paper.  This is not to say that the resume is not important - it is - but it is only a single element of a successful transition.

Make sure that you've done your homework first, to understand how you uniquely add value to any given industry or role.  Through a thorough analysis of your values, your unique skills, your passions, your education/past experience, you will see what you bring to the table as a whole, and how it applies to the role you're interested in.  You as a physician come with a myriad of transferable skills that can (and will) benefit companies in different industries.  But without this analysis, you cannot build a persuasive resume that hits the target "pain points"  of any given employer and demonstrates how you will solve their problem (and that you can).

With some thought and customization you can take your CV from an academic exercise to a compelling representation of you that makes people want to talk to you.  Start at the beginning.  Think about your accomplishments and how they relate to your target audience.  Make it about them, and you'll be pleasantly surprised how it is received.  Good luck!


Advice For The Diversifying Physician

Here are 5 tips I wish someone had told me when I was exploring options to diversify and differentiate my career as a physician.

Every once in a while, I look back to see what lies ahead.

The year 2010 officially marked 10 years for me from when I first made the critical decision to diversify my career beyond clinical medicine (note that I purposely did not say ‘leave medicine’ because, in my mind, I will always be a doctor first as demonstrated by my lifework philosophies and commitment to health improvement). Since then, it has been quite a journey – navigating through start-ups, public health policy, communications, IT, public relations, education, advertising, marketing, strategy consulting, investing, executive management and more - with scars and bruises that anyone would be proud to share.

Although 10 years may not seem like such a long period of time, in healthcare, the clock seems to run at its own unique pace.  In those days, the perception of physicians exploring diversified careers was one that was frowned upon, bullied and even taunted. Being only a handful of folks, we were commonly perceived as traitors to the profession. To add fuel to the fire, when I additionally pursued a degree in public health and business, others further questioned my commitment to medicine.

This misinformed perception could not have been further from the truth and reality.

I recall those were very tough times for physicians like myself who had interests in diversifying our careers. In fact, back in 1999, I recall forming probably what was one of the very first forums for physicians pursuing diversified interests. It was called MDForum and we had a whopping 300 members at that time.  I was desperate and determined to find others like me. Just remember back then blogs did not exist, nor did social networks or resourceful organizations such as Freelance MD. We relied primarily on word-of-mouth networking to connect with one another. (NOTE: While I still keep in contact with a few of those group members, I would be delighted to hear from any others who were part of the small community that was once called MDForum. It would be nice to reconnect and share war stories at our ~10 year mark.)

Fast forward to today.

The change is absolutely astounding and inspiring. Now, there are thousands of us exploring and pursuing diversified careers in healthcare for a variety of reasons, and we are growing at rates that others cannot ignore nor frown upon.  Although having been only 10 years, it’s as if we have entered a whole new era…an era where people like us are the new unsung heroes of our time.

Our practicing physician colleagues now rely upon us to be their advocates on the front lines of a rapidly shifting medical landscape.  In the midst of a healthcare overhaul, we are critical to the future of all aspects of healthcare delivery. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that many adjacent markets (information technology, biopharma, health agencies, market research, consulting shops, investment banks, VC/PE, etc.) depend on the insights provided by diversified physicians and health professionals, such as ourselves.  Having been on the inside, companies rely on us to share our diversified experiences, perspectives and insights to help drive innovation and advance the delivery of our system for all to benefit.

So now, rather than being questioned on my decision to diversify beyond clinical care, these days I am complimented on my foresight in predicting the industry’s future dependence on diversified physicians to help tackle some of the markets greatest health related challenges. Ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to play a proactive role in shaping our nation’s future healthcare system rather than being reactive to the cards being dealt. And today it is paying off. While my own focus is at the intersection of healthcare, education, innovation and entrepreneurship, other physicians in this FreelanceMD community offer up insightful perspectives and ideas that we should all be listening to. I know I am all eyes and ears.

With that as a backdrop, after 10 adventurous years of exploration and diversification as a physician, I share with you 5 pieces of advice that I wish someone had shared with me way back when as I was shaping my career.

1. If you like it, then do it.  As obvious as it seems, many people (esp. physicians) fear to digress from the career they spent thousands of dollars and several years pursuing. And understandably so.  I am here to tell you, its ok.  You will live.  If there is something that you are passionate about, you should pursue it. That doesn’t mean you have to drop your practice or primary income generator to get involved.  Start dabbling on evenings and weekends, and then see where it takes you. You will be surprised at what you discover along the journey. If it doesn’t work out, then at least you have a new hobby or a story to tell.

2. Avoid analysis paralysis.  The choices are abundant. I know. I get it. I’ve been in your shoes.  It can be confusing and daunting at times not knowing where to start. In medicine, we have clear pathways to a future career. However, once you step out, the comfort of that path is lost.  For that reason, I suggest making a plan and then tackle it one step at a time. Start with keeping notes. Network and talk to a few individuals. Find mentors to help guide you.  Explore your options before jumping into anything. Take baby steps.  In my case, after intense reflection, I realized my core interests were in building exciting things - which led me to the path of innovation and entrepreneurship.  To get here, I built a hypothetical “business of healthcare residency” program made up of career elements and pursuits that I thought were critical to reach my goal.  As with any success, it takes time to get there, as it did for me. Which leads me to my next tip…

3. Be patient, but remain persistent. Success does not happen overnight. We are so accustomed to hearing the stories in the news about the rise to rapid success. Just remember, those are the exceptions, not rule…hence their newsworthiness. You didn’t become a doctor overnight, so why do you expect to be an expert at [fill in blank here] overnight? You need to pay your dues (energy, time, effort) just like everyone else. All too often I have seen physicians leave medicine only to return to clinical practice within a year.  After being top dog of their profession, they encounter frustration that no one sees what they do. As with any profession, it takes commitment and persistence to succeed. Just because you are a physician, does not mean you are entitled or that your skills can be easily transferred to other professions. Keep trying; keep improving yourself…your day will come.

4. If you help others, they will help you back. This is the core principle of effective networking. By openly and unselfishly assisting others (whether it be making introductions, freely sharing expert knowledge or something else), we build trust, credibility, and stronger relationships. Down the road, this will pay off in multiples for you. In today’s world, this is much easier accomplished with the assistance of social media networks like LinkedIn.  Stay connected and always be relevant.  I can honestly tell you that my success is a direct result of the relationships I hold. Through my trusted networks and circle of friends, I have grown my knowledge base, explored new adventures and obtained new business opportunities.

5. Find your niche and own it.  Going forward, if the trends continue as they are, the diversified physician market will become increasingly competitive.  Recognize that simply having clinical experience is no longer a differentiator (perhaps 10 years ago, but not now). To succeed in today’s world, you must find a diversified niche that is synergistic to your clinical background and then run with it.  Learn it. Own it. Be it. Earn the respect as a thought leader for that space. For example, my niche expertise resides at the intersection of health, education, innovation and entrepreneurship.  Others like Kevin Pho have made a name for himself as the physician social media expert. Gregory Bledsoe as the expert in expedition medicine and Jeff Barson as an expert in medical spas. You get the point. Find your niche and own it!

I look forward to sharing more tips and advice as I encounter them in the adventures that lay ahead.

That's it for now. Have anything to add or want to share your experience? Please do so in the comments section below or by emailing me at You can view my bio here.

The journey is just beginning!




Physician Career Transition is a Process, Not An Event

Remember that old saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson about how life is a journey, not a destination?

Well, the same can be said for successful physician career transition.  The process can be as important, if not more important than the end result.  True!  End results will change and evolve ... but without careful consideration of the steps required to make a sustainable career change, the direction you take may not be the right one.  I've seen this lead docs into repeated unsatisfying attempts to move into non-clinical environments ... and has the propensity to end up convincing them to stay right where they are, resigned to being unhappy in the work they've chosen.

But this doesn't have to be the case.

The tricky thing is, by the time that most physicians have made the mental and emotional decision that they want to leave clinical practice, they become impatient to act.  Sometimes their drivers are purely negative ones:  they're burned out, frustrated, they want to escape what medicine has become and their place in it.  But more often than not, I see the drivers that really get them going are the positive ones:  they are excited by the potential opportunities they see, directions that they can take their medical knowledge in, possibilities for doing something bigger.

The problem is for some docs (at least some of the ones who call me), is that they see the possibilities and they want to do it now.  I'll never forget a mid-career physician who contacted me in July and decided that he wanted to be in a new, non-clinical, non-healthcare related role by January ... could I help him make that happen?  After speaking with him at length, I could respect and admire his enthusiasm and his desire to get it done ... but I had to give him the major reality-check that this just would not, could not happen in the timeframe he desired.  There were some critical things that he would need to do first.

Unfortunately, too many physicians considering non-clinical jobs (like my caller) only keep their eye on the finish-line.  With a vague idea that a particular job might be interesting of "something they could do", they forge ahead.  They skip going through the process of stepping back... that is, making sure that the desired job / industry / career is a good fit for them, making sure it will provide them with their "must haves" for fulfillment, and assessing whether they could be successful doing it.

And this process of stepping back takes time.  But it is worth it.

Successful career transition - particularly when you're moving from a highly specialized field into an industry or role that requires a significantly different skill set (most non-clinical jobs!) - takes focus, effort, money, and yes, time.  It is a process that requires moving through a series of critical phases to ensure that you are setting yourself up right.  The last thing you want to do is dive into a new career, taking your family along with you, only to discover a year or two later that you're as unhappy as you were in clinical medicine.

To ensure sustainability, success, and overall happiness with your choice of "next chapter", you  need to ensure that the change you are making fits you, that you are comfortable with your skills/expertise and the value you bring, and that the market has a need and recognizes your value.

So how do you do this?  You start by paying attention to the process.  You start from the beginning.

Get Introspective.  You may think that you know what you want, who you are, and where you need to go to be happy and professionally fulfilled.  But do you really?  Until you have truly taken the time to dissect some of these things, it is easy to miss some very critical truths about yourself that may impact the direction you decide to take.  Inventory your values -  not your professionals ones, not stewardship and teamwork and all that, but your personal ones.  Really clue into what motivates you, and what makes you tick.  This may take some deep, personal work.  Prioritize your values, and figure out how well-aligned your current professional life is to them.  You may find that there is a significant disconnect that is fueling some of your discontent.  Start to explore and research work that aligns better to what matters to you as a human being.  

Go further to figure out exactly what you bring to the table by sifting back through all of your past experiences and identifying the skills (healthcare and non-healthcare related) that make up your unique value proposition.  Find your specific leverage points - those particular skils/experiences that can launch you towards your next career.  Research where you could best fit the needs that are out there.  Figure out what your "optimal job" characateristics are and prioritize them.  Compare any potential opportunities to that list of must-haves and be honest with yourself.  Make sure you understand and honor what you truly need to be happy and fulfilled in your next career.

Too many physicians want to skip this introspective work and start developing their resume.  It is true that resumes are a critical part of the career change process, but they are not where you start.  Until you really understand your unique value proposition and your unique direction, building your resume at this point is premature.

Introspection is a critical component to professional fulfillment.  You can't start in the right direction without truly knowing what the right direction is.  Once you've figured this out, you can begin to see what your finish line might be - the right one for you.  All subsequent steps in the career transition process - exploration, preparation, acquisition, and finally transition (thanks to Dr. Michael McLaughlin and his book "Do You Feel Like You Wasted All That Training") - will go much more smoothly if you know that you are moving toward a goal (job) that will be what you need when you get there.

Lastly, recognize that moving from one career to another will not be a linear process.  It will have its stops and starts, and sometimes it will circle back.  But as long as you know that you are going in the right direction, you will be making progress toward your goal and venturing toward the best finish line for you.  And that is what matters in the long run.

So to get started, get to know yourself really well. You might be surprised what you learn.


After Clinical Medicine, What’s The Next Chapter Of Your Life?

Professional coaching could be “just what the doctor ordered” for those seeking help in finding and following their call.  

A growing number of physicians are disenchanted with their clinical practice but may have difficulty pursuing a new calling.  The resulting dilemma creates an opening for a coaching relationship.  A professional coach—such as Freelance MD author, Ashley Wendell —could be the right “prescription” for physicians in transition.          

Deep within every heart is a longing for meaning, a quest for purpose.  But for most of us, the search for meaning is a journey.  And physicians are no exception.  They will need a plan for the journey, a roadmap for success.  When they get to a “fork in the road,” they may need help in deciding which way to go.  They may encounter dangers and detours along the way and need guidance to be able to slow down and avoid disaster.  And, they will need a friend for the journey.

1.  Callings: In Search of a Real Life

Calls may come in many disguises.  They may be calls to do something or calls to be something.  They may be calls toward something or calls away from something.  They may be calls to change something.  Or they may be calls toward whatever we’ve dared ourselves to do for as long as we can remember.

Coaches can help their physician clients explore the psychological, spiritual, and practical processes they encounter in listening and responding to their callings.  While honoring a calling’s essential mystery, coaches may also help their physician clients explore the questions that bloom naturally in the presence of a calling:  What does it ask of us?  How do we learn to separate our calls from the background noise in our lives?  How do we tell the true call from the siren call—an enticing appeal for something alluring but potentially dangerous.  How do we handle our resistance to it?

The challenge in coaching is to help us know whether our calls are true or false, to know how and when to respond to them, and to know whether a call really belongs to us or not.  This requires the coach to help their clients tread a path between two essential questions: “what is right for me?” and “where am I willing to be led?”

2.  Finding Your Call    

Coaching can help physicians “find their path” by exploring what their life and talents are calling them to “do.” Coaches can facilitate this process by helping their clients clarify their values, beliefs, and purpose. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge in helping physicians find their path is to get them to slow down or stop long enough to “take the call.”  We belong to a work-obsessesed culture whose busyness-as–usual makes us forget when to “knock-off,” or stop doing something.    

Coaching can also help cultivate the key social roles and relationships of their clients.  This can help them define how they will schedule their time in to specific roles and activities that represent what their passion and purpose are all about.  Similarly, it can be used to help them define what roles and activities in their current schedule need to be reduced or eliminated if they are going to live with authenticity.

The next step is to help their clients learn to stop looking for answers.  Instead, they should concentrate on asking questions.  Asking questions seems to engage us in a way that makes hearing our inner guidance more possible.  Nothing shapes our lives so much as the questions we ask.

3.  Turning Resistance Into Response

We all have a part of us that fears change and reacts to it with a reflexive flinch, the way snails recoil at the touch.  A calling, however, is a messenger of change, and by ignoring it, we risk the corrosive effects of avoidance and tempt wake up calls.  Responding to a call means doing something about it.  A calling requires action, decision-making, and change.

Resistance may actually be a good sign.  It could mean we are close to something vital and the calling is worthy of us.  The degree of resistance is usually equal to the amount of power waiting to be unleashed.  Coaches can provide the “push,” much like an eagle in teaching its young to soar.

If the calling we seek becomes the treasures, the obstacles to their path become the tests of commitment.  We must be willing to be “shaken up.”  Stress often prompts breakthroughs, crises point toward opportunities.  A call “rocks the boat” because it often points to our passions.

Generally, people won’t pursue their callings until the pain of doing so is exceeded by the pain of not doing so.  The main reason we ignore calls is that we know they will cost us something.  To be authentic, we may have to give up something dear—a job, a house, a relationship, a belief, and a lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed. 

It is one thing to ask ourselves the question, “What do I want?”  It is another to ask ourselves—and to answer honestly: “What am I willing to give up or do to make this happen?”  This is sacrifice—the “letting go” of something we feel is “holy” in our lives.  It means stepping out of our “at home feeling” and leaving the familiar surroundings of our “birdcage.”  Every sacrifice, every step toward action, every response to a call necessitates a “leap of faith” and is done without knowing the outcome. 

Coaching can help us look at how we resist our callings, and what the challenges and blessings are from moving from “No” to “Yes.” Do we experience complete freedom to step out and make the most of our abilities?  Or are we hindered, like many people, by our own doubts or your capabilities to fulfill our potential? 

Coaching may help us discover how to overcome our trials, setbacks, and self-doubt as we press toward the reality of experiencing you dreams.  The focus can be shifted from “Why is this happening to me?” to “What is the teaching here?” and “What can I learn from this?”

4.  Following Your Calling

Much like college students who struggle to declare a major, students in the “school of life” often struggle to know and follow their passions.  They exert great effort to negotiate the tight passages of career choice or career transition and to create a match between who they are and what they do—the best kind of success.  These decisions need to be made from the heart more than the head.  What’s at stake is a life of integrity, a life that honors passion and purpose. 

Some may need all the help they can get in following their calls.  Coaches can serve not only as their guide but also their friend. 

Coaches can help their clients identify the emerging development tasks in your vision of the future, formulated as a “plan” for the next chapter of your lives.  Coaches can also help their clients create a vital learning agenda, and make learning a major part of the next chapter of their lives.  With this tool, they can learn when and how to take advantage of change in their lives by “holding on” to their values, “letting go” of bad habits, “taking on” new knowledge and skills, and “moving on” with their plan for the next chapter of their lives.

A growing number of physicians are looking for a practical guide to discovering their calling.  They need help in nurturing the process of listening and following their calling, for creating meaning in their life and work.  Professional coaching can provide the guidance they need to ensure a successful journey.

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