Take Time to Remember Your ‘Why’

COVID-19 has strained the US healthcare system and individual providers, but it has also helped some physicians reconnect with their 'why,' allowing them to return to their love for medicine.

Reconnect With Your Personal Goals and Mission

The stress of the past year has made many physicians take a step back and think about their lives and careers. But this form of self-reflection — often linked to signs of burnout — was happening long before COVID-19.

According to a pre-pandemic American Medical Association study, 43.9 percent of U.S. physicians show signs of at least one symptom of burnout.

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, president of clinical care for Providence, was a clinician at the height of the AIDS epidemic when burnout began impacting how she interacted with patients.

Dr. Compton-Phillips could point to a specific moment when she realized burnout was affecting her happiness and her caregiving. From that point forward, she worked to reconnect with her personal “why” for becoming a physician. She also looked to others for help.

“I learned from other, wiser clinicians how to maintain compassion without becoming overwhelmed by the emotional ups and downs of being a bedside caregiver,” wrote Dr. Compton-Phillips in a perspective piece about coming back from burnout.

Dr. Compton-Phillips isn’t alone. Many physicians need help finding new energy for their career. But burnout isn’t the only reason physicians seek change. While the phenomenon has intensified over the last year for nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians — and made it hard for some to see past current stressors — the intensity of the pandemic has left others feeling reinvigorated and looking for ways to reclaim or harness their passion for medicine.

Kyle Travers, a recruiter with Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D), says that the experiences of 2020 have led many physicians to re-evaluate what’s most important to them.

“This past year has led to a realignment for clinicians,” says Travers. “Many physicians I’ve talked to have expressed a desire to find a position closer to family. Others who volunteered in some way during COVID-19 say that their experience made them realize that there was something more out there. In other words, volunteering gave them a renewed feeling of purpose.”

One of those physicians was Dr. Tony Knott, who had walked away from his New York private practice in 2014 to start a publishing company in England.

After returning to New York in 2019 to care for his mother, COVID-19 struck. Dr. Knott answered the state’s call for medical volunteers and found himself re-energized. He then turned to Travers and the PS&D team to help him return to medicine full-time.

Dr. Knott, now a primary care physician at Coney Island Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Clinic, said the break he took did him good.

“It’s like riding a bicycle; it’s all come back. And I have a new mindset now. I have a completely different approach to it. I’m so glad I took that break to think and analyze what all this is about. It saved me.”

Find Meaningful Connections

Stories like those of Dr. Compton-Phillips and Dr. Knott are nothing new to Provider Solutions & Development partner Dr. Nii-Daako Darko.

The board-certified surgeon was just five years out of residency when he started Docs Outside the Box®. The podcast highlights ways physicians combat burnout, find deeper meaning in their careers or make life changes that allow them to have an impact beyond traditional medicine.

“When I was growing up, I always had a feeling I wanted to do something big,” said Dr. Darko. “I thought medicine was it. The truth is medicine gives you the keys to do whatever you want to do. There’s really no specific pathway you have to use or should use to do that. You have to create your own path. If you don’t, it’s very easy to get burnt out or feel like a cog in a wheel.”

Docs Outside the Box, he says, is a resource for those looking for connection, understanding, and maybe even a change.

“The podcast gives me the ability to reach out to people, connect with them and talk about their successes and failures. This formulates a story that someone coming up behind them can learn from.”

Docs Outside the Box is just one of many resources for physicians seeking support or wanting to improve their well-being and satisfaction. The American College of Physicians also offers a roundup of Physician Wellness and Burnout Tools.

Physicians looking for renewed job satisfaction may also benefit from our holistic approach to recruitment. The PS&D team offers career guidance. The PS&D team offers career coaching — from general conversations to resume tips — guiding physicians to the next step of their career.

Return to Your Reason for Becoming a Physician

As a physician, you might often be lauded as a hero. But in 2020, your heroic work took on a new, deeper meaning. If you are having trouble finding satisfaction in a career you once loved, seek support from others who find their fulfillment by helping you.

Travers says his role as a PS&D recruiter is about more than connecting a physician to a job. It’s about making sure the fit is right for the physician and the employer.

“Our team works very hard to align ourselves with the mission and values of the healthcare partners we support,” Travers says. “We spend a lot of time getting to know each individual physician job seeker so that we understand what they are looking for. We work really hard to get it right.

“There’s no incentive for us to put the wrong physician in a position. We know that when we make the right connection, we’re potentially helping thousands of people who will gain access to care. That’s extremely rewarding.”