The Power Of CommunityFeb 14, 2023
“Alone, we can do little; together, we can do so much.”
For all its traumas, one of the most incredible gifts bestowed upon doctors is the community created during medical training. When I think back to my Internal Medicine internship, I don’t think about the grueling, sleepless nights and the unrelenting pace. I think about my friends.
And these aren’t just any friends. These are some of the best friends I’ve ever known. These are the people I laughed with, cried with, drank with, and consoled during difficult times. One of them even introduced me to my wife and became my family. Though we are now separated by many miles, the bonds forged during our six years in a Midwestern city are unbreakable, and I think of them every day.
A strange thing happens as we emerge from medical training and become attendings. We lose our community. We move from our shared, lived experience to living our own lives. My colleagues at work have families and responsibilities, and so do I. As our lives grow, shift and change, our opportunities to build deep, meaningful relationships appear to dwindle. I told myself the story that people don’t make new friends after turning 40. And that became my reality.
My physician burnout was multi-factorial. There was not just one thing that made me seek a quick escape from medicine. But a total lack of community was high on the list.
For those unfamiliar with the impact of community, let me introduce you to The Roseto Effect. The Roseto Effect is a phenomenon that was discovered in the 1960s by a physician named Dr. Stewart Wolf. He noticed that the residents of the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania had an unusually low rate of heart disease despite having many risk factors, such as high cholesterol and smoking. Further research revealed that the tight-knit community and strong social support networks in Roseto significantly protected the residents from heart disease. The effect has been studied in other communities, and it is now understood that social connections and strong communities can positively impact physical health and well-being.
I stumbled upon physician coaching when I was searching for a solution. The goal of escaping medicine was fueling my burnout at an unsustainable pace. I was doing all the “right things” but couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was completely skeptical that physician coaching would work for me.
But the impact of physician coaching went beyond learning to manage my thoughts, expectations, and boundaries in medicine. Physician coaching led me to a community for the first time since leaving medical training. Once again, I found myself surrounded by other physicians experiencing the trials and tribulations of healthcare. And within that community of shared experiences, I made friends.
I became friends with other physicians while receiving coaching in a small group format. I became friends with the coaches that helped me see my life from a new perspective. I created friendships during my coach certification with physicians and non-physicians alike. And I ultimately developed incredible relationships with other physician coaches trying to change the realities of current-day medicine one physician at a time.
And these aren’t plain old friendships either. Like my friends from my intern year, we unconditionally support each other. We laugh, cry, and share our hopes and dreams. When doubts arise, as they inevitably do, we provide an invaluable sounding board of encouragement and reality checks. And when our own internal beliefs aren’t up to the task, we borrow the beliefs we have in each other to keep us moving forward. And let's be real, it's just nice to have a group of people you can relate to and who get what you're going through.
While I still heavily rely on regular physician coaching, the impact of friendship and community cannot be overstated. Community is fundamental. It is the key to negotiating perilous times through support and shared experiences. It is also one of the most significant missing pieces for physicians in modern-day medicine. With a strong community, anything is possible.
Who is your community? Have you struggled to build deep, meaningful friendships? Does something prevent you from finding or creating the community you need? How might having a community change your life and career?
Are you interested in creating more balance in your life? I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING. Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.
This training will teach you the five essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine. You will also learn how to stop racing toward retirement and start using tools that empower you to practice medicine your way.
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do, too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
The Rembrants - I’ll Be There For You
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