I am seeing more and more articles on physician stress, physician burnout and physician suicide. There are many workshops and books on these subjects. One may ask what is going on with the most noble of professions? The fact of the matter is, the old model of a doctor donning a white coat and seeing 40-50 patients every day just does not work anymore.
Physician burnout is multifactorial. Most times, it is not due to stress from the job, but from the inability to strike a healthy work – life balance. It is further compounded by social factors such as financial challenges, ailing parents, problem or sickly children, and marital discord. Some physicians are single parents with no family support. Studies show that women physicians have as much as an eight-fold rate of suicide as compared to their male colleagues. A female physician with children endures more stress.
Physicians are expected to be perfect. They are expected to know all the answers, never say the wrong thing and to always be present. In short, they are expected to be superhuman. They are faced daily with the effects of illness, death, dying and the aging process of their patients. They work long hours, get tired and that interferes with their ability to work well. Employed physicians are pressured to see more and more patients in a short amount of time. They feel as if they are on a production line. They find themselves having to meet quotas and bottom-lines. Self-employed physicians find themselves living paycheck to paycheck because of increasing overhead and declining reimbursements. All the while, personal time and time with family take a back seat. In addition, there is the constant fear of making a medical mistake. Physicians are being burnt out emotionally, mentally and physically.
Physicians are starting to realize that they need to take control of their careers in order to decrease these precarious levels of stress. They are starting to recognize that there are many different ways to practice medicine. They are seeking clinical and non-clinical alternatives to medical practice.
As a single mother of three young children with a busy surgical practice, I had to find my work-life balance fast. My passion for law led me to start incorporating independent medical examinations into my practice. By doing this, I decreased my time in the office and increased my bottom line allowing me to spend more time with my family.
In my book, Make Your Move: A Physician’s Guide to Clinical and Non-Clinical Alternatives to Medical Practice, I encourage physicians to practice medicine on their own terms. The book provides them with ideas of practice that most don’t know exist.
Dr. Emily D Woolcock, MD is among the country’s most well-known and respected orthopedic surgeons. She is a Board Certified Orthopaedic surgeon with a specialization in Adult Joint Reconstruction. Dr. Woolcock is an internationally recognized speaker, author, mentor and consultant. She holds a second Board Certification as an Independent Medical Examiner/ Orthopaedic Expert. She was selected to serve on the Advisory Board of the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners, a position she still holds.
Dr. Woolcock is the founder and CEO of National Orthopaedic Consultants, an orthopedic practice that provides traditional care in addition to expert witness training and consultation. Through her unique coaching programs, her best-seller book and her online school, The IME Academy, she has trained physicians into expert Independent Medical Examiners. Learn more at www.TheIMEAcademy.com.