I Get OverwhelmedOct 24, 2021
Overwhelm. It is a feeling I know well. It is also a feeling that I have increasingly come to dread. It’s the story of my life. When I think back on my biggest achievements, my biggest moments, there it was: Overwhelm. I still remember the feeling of studying for an AP exam, heading off to college, MCATs, and board exams. Each time it felt a little different, but the underlying sensation was the same. When I was younger, I stepped into the overwhelm. I accepted the challenge as a move towards something bigger and better. As I progressed into my medical training, it became something I tried to avoid. It began to hold me back. It took over, controlling me and my emotions. It led to anger and frustration. I kept blaming other things, but I never truly recognized the problem. It would be years before I fully understood why. Quite simply: You don’t know what you don’t know.
If I am being honest with myself, my journey with physician burnout began during my first year of GI fellowship in 2006. Overwhelm played a big role. There were essentially four GI fellows seeing all of the general Gastroenterology consultations in a 1200 bed hospital. The days were arduous and felt never-ending. When they did finally end, we would find ourselves woken up throughout the night by similarly overwhelmed residents staffing the inpatient wards and intensive care units. My overwhelm turned into anger and frustration. The GI fellows were well known for their bad attitude and I was no exception. I still remember one fall day during my first year of fellowship when I walked out the door of the hospital with no intention of returning. After a quick ranting session, thankfully I went back inside. Fellowship gave way to attending-hood and things initially seemed so much better. My practice built up quickly. But the busier I got, the more overwhelm began to creep back into my life. Patient demands, requests for sooner visits, and the needs of my referring physicians and patients took precedence over my responsibilities towards my wife and children. My so-called “work-life balance” was way off. But this is what I had signed up for. This is what being is a doctor is all about. Isn’t it?
Physician coaching was not an immediate sell as a solution for my burnout. Born and raised in New York, I’m a cynic at heart. I am always looking for the catch. What is this person trying to get from me? What are they selling? How are they trying to take advantage of me? In fact, I logged into the first complimentary group coaching call and said: NOPE! Then, I was asked an extremely important question that changed everything: If not this, then what? After a little reflection, I began to see how important investing in myself would be if I wanted things to change. So, I went all in. I invested my time, money, and energy into that coaching experience. And before I knew it, things began to change. An outsider might have assumed everything was the same. My job was the same. My family was the same. My house and car were the same. But, I felt different. I felt inspired, energized, and rejuvenated. People started commenting on my good mood. For the first time since residency, I felt a real sense of community with other physicians.
I love the practice of medicine and I love being a gastroenterologist. So why would I choose to delve into physician coaching? My medical practice is full of coaching options. Why not just coach my patients? First and foremost, I have seen first-hand the impact of overwhelm, burnout, and moral injury on the practice of medicine. Through coaching, I have also seen that I am not alone. I am part of an amazing group of physicians who feel the same way. My love of medicine and new knowledge of a community made me aware that I wanted to be a part of the solution. I want to help the profession of medicine move forward into a bright future. I know. I know. It sounds a little Pollyanna. Have I lost my New York edge? Probably. But that may not be such a bad thing.
Putting myself out there feels so wrong and so right at the same time. I cringe about people reading my posts. Then, I think about how reading these posts would have influenced me if I had found them years ago. I think about artists that wear their hearts on their sleeves and put out their craft for everyone to judge, interpret, enjoy and make their own. What would happen if they didn’t allow themselves to be vulnerable? The world loses. We all lose. So, I decided it was time to get out of my own way. I decided to do what I want and to care less about what others think. Haters gonna hate.
So, here I am. Jumping in headfirst. Navigating a landscape that has mostly been paved by amazing female physicians. I am someone who has your back and who understands your thoughts and feelings. How can I be so sure? Because I was you. I am you. Physician coaching changed my life. These tools worked for me and they can work for you too. Come join me on this journey and relearn how to love the practice of medicine all over again. Contact me today for a free coaching session to see if physician coaching is right for you.
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I may too), but music lyrics really speak to me. I hope to make them a regular part of my posts. I hope you find inspiration in the lyrics too.
Royal & the Serpent - Overwhelmed
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