The Physician Philosopher Podcast
TPP 32: Do You Feel Trapped, Stuck, or Burned Out in Medicine? Then Let’s Fix It.
It is time to rage against this machine… the machine of the broken medical system. Too many doctors feel trapped, stuck, or burned out in medicine. And it doesn’t have to be this way. What are your options? And what can we do about it?
This is the episode where I share a TON of personal struggles and the time that I was told I’d fail out of medical school. Why? Because I’m different…
but I’m no longer going to apologize for that. It is time for medicine to change.
That’s what this episode is all about. You aren’t alone, and only together can we fix this.
Today You’ll Learn
- How the medical system is broken.
- That our thinking that got us here isn’t what will get us out.
- Stop apologizing for being different, and recognize that difference might be what changes everything.
- And more!
- Episode 30: The 3 Pillars to Finding Freedom for Physicians Who Feel Trappedor Stuck
- Building Your Hell Yes Policy
- TPP 26: How Doctors Benefit From Professional Coaching
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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. If Albert Einstein said this 50 years ago, why has medicine been so resistant to understanding that message? How can we adopt a new kind of thinking that allows us to fix our broken matters? Well system. This is the physician philosopher podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner and anesthesiologist online entrepreneur and creator of the alpha coaching experience. The physician philosopher podcast teaches you how to create the life. You deserve one thought at a time, start before you're ready. Start by starting start now.
Hey, Hey everyone. Welcome to episode number 32 of the physician philosopher podcast, where we take an uncurated and unapologetic look and a physician life money and mindset today's thought is this. You are not broken. The medical system is we physicians do not have to accept the status quo and you are not alone in fighting this battle. Whether the quote mentioned in the beginning is actually from Einstein or not as bit of a debate, but he was asked about it. And he does admit to saying something along the lines and agreed with the sentiment. That thinking that got us there, the thinking that created our problems is not going to be the thinking that we use to solve them, to fix them. So this begs the question then why are broken medical system? Because it is broken, which is plagued by physician burnout, physician suicide epidemics continues to use the old way of thinking that got us into this situation to try and solve a problem.
That exact thinking made happen. That exact thinking's not going to get us out as why is medicine so reticent to change? The reason we do this is because we fail to realize that everything in life is really just a construct. The reason that we accept this and don't really push medicine to make things any better is because we just have heard this so many times, right? It is just an idea that we've accepted and refuse to change, refuse to challenge. And I totally get it. Everyone around us is telling us that this is just the way it is, and this is the way it's always going to be as if we just have to accept that the most recent, an example of a physician construct that we have in medicine, the most recent physician compensation report done by Medscape found that doctors work clinically on average, about 38 hours a week.
And if you stop there, you'd be like, Oh, that sounds pretty similar to the 40 hour workweek that most people have, but that doesn't count the 15 hours on average that doctors spend charting and doing the electronic medical record system. So when you combine the numbers, it turns out 53.4 hours is the average number of hours that a doctor works each week. This begs the question. Why do doctors commonly work 50 to 60 hours? And in some specialties, even more than that as an accepted practice of what is considered full-time work to make a full-time paycheck as a doctor, why is for example, the 40 hour work week that's accepted in every other industry, not the one that we accept in medicine. And let's take that a step further. Why is the 40 hour work week? The standard, even outside of medicine who came up with this arbitrary number, why isn't it 43 or 35 or 30?
There's no reason that it has to be 40. Other than that, we decided it to be that way. It is a construct. Let me ask you, so does it really matter how many hours you work each week? If you get all of your work done, do all of the doctors that get the same amount of time, get the same amount of work done? No. Then why are we all expected to work the same number of hours? Why are we expected to see the same number of patients in the same amount of time working 50 to 60 hours per week to be considered full-time it's just a construct. It's just an idea, but it doesn't have to be that way. That's something that we can choose. And in leading companies that allow themselves to think outside the box, this is exactly what happened. So for example, like Netflix came up with this basically endless vacation policy where you have the choice to take as much vacation as you want so long as you get your work done.
And this idea came from the suggestion of a single employee to the administration, I think to the CEO of Netflix. And they were like, Oh yeah, that's a good point. We really just care that you get your work done. So who cares? How much time you take off, as long as you're doing that. And this is an example of the things don't have to be a certain way. And when Netflix made that change, initially, they went through some bumps and some struggles because people felt like, Oh, maybe there's still an expectation to take a certain number of vacation, even if they are giving us endless vacation. But once they figured it out, it really worked. And this is an example of something outside of medicine. When you think outside the box, when you think abstractly, when your brain isn't wired to do exactly what we've always done and expect a different result, right?
That's the definition of insanity things. Don't have to be a certain way. Even in medicine, we have just had it beaten into us for so long that things are the way that they are and that we have no choice in them, but I'm here to rage against this machine to say that it doesn't have to be this way, that there are some doctors out there who feel broken or trapped in medicine who actually want the power and ability to change medicine forever. And who actually had the ideas to do that, to go from feeling like a trap physician, to a fulfilled physician who is part of a new generation of doctors who we really want to set the trajectory for the future of medicine. We are not going to allow the physician burnout, moral injury and physician suicide, epidemics that currently exist to continue. We're not going to allow a system that perpetuates that to keep doing it.
The time is over. And yet there's a problem. If we want to think differently about our broken medical system, in order to find these solutions, it's going to require us to adapt to different kinds of mindset, to master our thoughts and to think outside the box. And the problem is that medicine, sometimes hasn't been kind to the people who think differently and who don't follow the status quo when abstract problem solvers suggest solutions. It's not uncommon for administrators to block or say, Oh, I can see why that's really important. This isn't a priority right now, or Hey, yeah, that's really important. This is a priority. I can see how that would be hugely beneficial for our students and our residents and for the faculty. But we just don't have the money right now. We can't put our money where our mouth is or that they don't understand how that would help the bottom line, because we all know that being counters and people that are administration love metrics.
If you can't measure it, they don't care. And even when you can measure it and you tell them, Hey, do you realize that every doctor that turns over at this place because of burnover costs you $500,000 to a million bucks, you can measure that, right? So if you just put a million dollars into wellness at a hospital and you stopped two doctors from leaving, you would recoup your costs. You'd get your ROI. Doesn't matter or worse. They just tell you, Hey, suck it up, buttercup, be a doctor. You signed up for this. And then they kick you while you're down until they put their nose back. Basically say, Hey, just keep your nose to the grindstone. It is what it is. You signed up for this. It's like the military. You knew what you were getting into. Go be a doctor, stop whining, get back to your job.
Medicine has not been historically kind to people who challenged norms and constructs and who asks questions about things. Why do they have to be the way that they are? And when that happens, oftentimes this person gets labeled as a complainer or a whiner or someone that doesn't fit the mold. They get a bad persona or reputation, which is ridiculous because they're simply trying to fix something that doesn't work, except for the people that are in charge, who created the decisions. I think that this is broken. And unfortunately, people who think differently who think outside the box, whose brains don't work in the typical fashion, aren't always treated kindly. I'll share a personal example of this that I've never shared publicly before, which is that I used to think that my brain was broken. I thought that I was different from other people in a really negative way, because when I was passed up for a job that I really wanted, I thought that it was due to some perceived personality, deficits and personality traits or flaws that I have that prevented me from taking the career path that I thought I was always going to take when I was a resident.
And maybe that was the reason that I got passed up for a leadership position I wanted. And this happened not once but four times. And to me, it was just more proof that my brain was broken when I got passed up. And the case was really mounting the evidence to prove how broken my brain was and how just, I was a complete imposter. I suffered from imposter syndrome and eventually people were going to figure me out. And this was finally the moment where people figured out that I wasn't as valuable as I thought I was. And the reason that I had all this evidence, when I say the evidence is mounting up is because I have a reading disability. So my reading comprehension is actually fine. It's pretty good, but I'm probably dyslexic. And so my reading rate is extremely slow, like in the bottom five percentile, like my fourth grader when she was in third grade could read two or three times faster than me and I am 35 years old.
I have to read things multiple times to make sure that I didn't skip over words basically. And if you ever read anything that I write, which many people have, and they point out my grammatical mistakes, it's the same thing. I'm also a highly ADHD. If you have me in real life and see how talkative I am, that proposition that both of these things, my reading disability, my ADHD have been officially diagnosed. And for a long time, I was actually really embarrassed to share that publicly. And after I did once or twice, people are like, Oh, Hey, by the way, I'm in a similar situation, I've also had this. I've also had that struggle. My struggle was not exactly the same, but thank so much for sharing it. And so it gave me a little bit of more courage to, to share these things. But why was I scared to admit that?
Yeah, I read really slow and yes, I am ADHD, which should surprise no one who has ever met me in person. But the reason I was scared, the reason why I was embarrassed is because the first time that I shared that information publicly in medical school, I had a professor tell me that it probably just meant that I couldn't hack it, that I wasn't meant to be a doctor, that I was going to fail out of medical school and I should choose a different path. Now, people are listening to that. They're gonna be like, wow, that's pretty harsh. Unfortunately, that professor no longer teaches at the medical school. But when that happened to me, that hit hard. I was struggling already. I'd already been figuring out that I had a problem because the stems kept getting longer and longer. I started questioning my intelligence. And when my intelligence was finally not enough to overcome the length of the stems for questions on medical school exams, when the medical school stems were a mile long, I couldn't make it through the exam.
I couldn't read fast enough to get through my exam. And all of my classmates had enough time to not only go through the exam once, but they could read it twice and check their answers. So I passed biochem my first year of medical school by half a point. And so for a long time, I thought my brain was broken. I got to the point where I was like, wow, maybe I can't hack it, maybe this guy's right. Maybe I really shouldn't go into medicine. Maybe I'm not meant to be a doctor. And if I just stopped there, it'd be a really sad story about someone who tried really hard, put their work in, found out that they had a disability. They don't read fast enough and failed out of medical school, but that's not what happened. And still, I was really embarrassed to share my story.
And so for those of you that are listening, maybe you're a student and you're struggling. Let me just finish the rest of this story for you to let you know how it went. So this didn't end up being a sad story. I didn't fail out of medical school. Unfortunately, you can't count the underdog out. When the underdog has drive, I've got drive to spare and an entrepreneurial spirit that can't be subdued. So I'm a problem solver. So we started this episode talking about problem solving and thinking outside the box. And this was a problem. I was going to solve my story continued. I did graduate. And yeah, after my first two years, I was like 106 out of one 19. And my medical school class for those first two years. And then I got into clinical medicine and I hit my stride. I finished in the top quarter of my class.
During the clinical years, I ended up becoming the student body president for my entire medical school. I learned how to adapt enough to do well on step exams. And then I got into my top residency, became a chief resident. I'd go on to publish randomized control trials. And when teaching awards and I'd get the top teaching evaluations in my department of a hundred faculty members, and I'd be able to take a really good care of patients. I became a fantastic clinician, by the way, I'd also build a successful business because I think outside the box, my brain is not wired the same way. Yes, I'm dyslexic. Yes. I'm ADHD. Yes. I have a reading disability, but all of those things, aren't me being broken. They're my brain being wired in a very different way than a lot of people's brains are wired. It's just a different way of looking at things I wasn't broken.
I just needed to be put in the right situation. That path continued as we continue to coach doctors and alpha coaching experience. And it's pretty good. When you think about this successful business and all the things that I accomplished, pretty good for someone who can't hack it, who was told they were going to fail out of medical school. And it turns out that my brain, the one that I thought was broken, isn't broken. The one that someone told me was going to cause me to fail at a medical school. That brain is what allows me to propel and succeed in the right environment. So while you may not have a reading processing problem, like I do your mind may still be asking questions about things. Why do they have to be this way? Why are they this way? Do we have to keep doing them this way?
Many doctors who feel trapped or broken or stuck inside of medicine it's because their mind is telling them that there has to be a better way than the way that we're doing things right now. And until we get out of this matrix, right? I can't remember in the movie, was it the red pill or the blue pill, but until we get out of the matrix and realize that this isn't the way that it has to be, you're going to feel like you don't fit, but you don't have to accept norms and constructs that medicine tells us we have to accept. So we can refuse to have to choose between being a good spouse and a good mom or dad, and a good doctor. We can refuse to believe what others consider part-time work. That's not part-time work when you're expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week.
Part-time 40 hours or 30 hours a week is not really part time. It doesn't make you any less of a doctor. We can refuse to accept that when we get passed up for the position we wanted, not once, but four times that we are not victims. It didn't happen to us. This is happening for us. We can change our mindset about that situation. And in particular, we can refuse to accept that the physician burnout and physician suicide, epidemics, that plague our physician community have to continue. Now, I read a story recently of this beautiful human being in their mid thirties or forties. Let's just keep it generic. So I'm not too specific here. I'm tired of reading people that are physicians and wonderful humans who are moms and dads, husbands, and wives who feel so trapped that they end up dying by suicide. I refuse to accept that business as usual in medicine has to continue.
And if you're like me and you have felt like you don't fit, or that you want a narrative different than the one that you've been sold or that medicine isn't all it was chocked up to be. It wasn't that promised land that you thought it would be when you arrived, your wires didn't get crossed up. You weren't meant to be part of the old generation that accepts the status quo and says, that's just the way it is because you realize that there are other ways to do things that just because it has been that way does not mean that it has to continue to be that way. In other words, you're part of a new generation of physicians, right? Generation of physicians who want to be fulfilled in medicine, who don't want to have to choose between all the different hats and responsibilities that they wear and who want to rise up and demand change.
And this change will require us to have a different kind of thinking than the thinking we use to cause all of these problems. And we realize this, we realize that thinking outside the box, isn't the problem. It is the solution. So when I learned how to master my thoughts, I really did a ton of thought work and worked on that. And that's the same thought work that we teach our clients, the alpha coaching experience. I realized that I have options. In fact, I have a lot of options. I wasn't trapped at all. I felt trapped and stuck in a system that I felt undervalued and unappreciated, which eventually caused me also to feel burnout. And when I came, I came to this realization that I could think about things differently. I realized that my brain isn't broken. It's just wired a bit differently and I'm finding it.
There are more and more doctors just like me who have brains that are wired the same way, brains that are wired for entrepreneurship. For example, that allow us to take risks when others would cower and fear to take a hundred percent responsibility when we make mistakes, right? You can't be successful in business or in life in medicine. If you don't take a hundred percent responsibility for your mistakes, but that also doesn't mean that there's mistakes define you. We don't over-generalize that to describe what kind of physician or mom or dad or husband or wife that we are. We also realized to get started when others would choose to stay stuck is the way to progress, right? Failing forward, and looking at the obstacle as the way the obstacle. Isn't something that prevents us from moving forward. The obstacle is how we learn burn to get to the goal that we're trying to get up to.
We also realized that our brains are wired to speak up when others won't. And I think more and more doctors are going to be in one or two situations where they either find a way out for those that are burned out. The 50% that are burned out or feel stuck or trapped, or they're going to have to speak up, to change the system. And I would love for all of the doctors to have a tipping point is Malcolm Gladwell. We'll call it where we have enough physicians who practice medicine because they want to, and not because they have to that they've mastered their life, their money and their thoughts because of the empowerment that they have through mastering those things and really working through that stuff. You're now able to read against the machine to read into a microphone like mine so that medicine will no longer perpetuate a system that leads to physician burnout, moral injury, and death by suicide.
I'm no longer going to apologize for being different. And I've particularly done apologizing for pointing out where our system is broken. So many people are like, Ugh, gosh, why do you point out all this stuff? Because no one ever does and nothing ever changes. And I'm tired of reading stories about people who are wonderful physicians and siblings and parents and doctors that die by suicide because our system is broken because they don't feel like they have any options because they feel trapped because they feel stuck and they don't know what to do that, isn't it not a reality that I am willing to accept. I'm part of a new generation of physicians who refuses to be told. We have to accept the status quo because that's just the way that it is. So if you look at our medical system and recognize how broken it is too, I want you to know that you do not have to apologize for pointing it out.
That when you do that, you're not a whiner or a complainer. You're not the one who's blocking the gourds. You are a person who refuses to accept the status quo yet fixing the system. STEM is going to require a different kind of thinking than the kind of thinking that we used to get here. It will require physicians refuse to be the trap physician who is mentally and financially stuck in medicine, because at the end of the day, that's what happens. A lot of doctors you're like, ah, man, I would love to change things. I would love to speak up and speak out, but I can't afford to. I need the paycheck. They own you. So until you empower yourself, both mentally through your thought work financially through your financial situation and then find the balance you need to practice. Cause you want to not because you have to, until you're in that empowered situation, a lot of doctors find it hard to speak up, but I don't want you to be dependent on out of date, traditions and old norms.
I don't want you to feel like there's nothing that you can do and that there's no option for you. There are options and or require doctors who want to become a part of this new generation of physicians to become a fulfilled physician. It's going to require those of us who want to usher in this new era of medicine to be empowered by your mindset, to be empowered by your money, to be empowered by your balance in life. And so that financial freedom to vote with your feet, because at the end of the day, that's sometimes what you have to do. You have to say, Hey, I refuse to be a part of this and I'm going to keep backing off until you fix it. But I'm going to keep speaking up and speaking out until you fix it too. And so you need to find that balance.
And so are you willing to be a part of this new generation of fulfilled physicians? And if so, I'd love to hear from you send me a DM on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. You can find me on most of those platforms at TPP underscore MD or the physician philosopher pretty much all those platforms. And in the meantime, the purpose of this episode is to let you know that you're not alone. That I recognize the thinking that got us here is not the thinking that's going to fix this. And I know that you know that too, you're not broken. You're not trapped. You have options. And you have other doctors who are willing to stand right next to you. And to stand up with you, doctors who recognize medicine is broken, who want to show you the value that medicine never did. So if you feel under appreciated under valued, you feel trapped, you feel stuck, you feel burned out. Please know that you're not alone. That there's a new generation of a fulfilled physicians who will usher in the kind of change that is best for doctors. It's best for our patients and who refuse to accept the status quo. So today's thought is this, you are not broken. The medical system is we do not have to accept the status quo and you are not alone in fighting this fight. So until next time my friends start before you're ready. Start by starting start now. I'll see you next week.
My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner is a physician first personal climates blogger. You know, I've coached for doc. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. You also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes. I'm coaching is as a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you're a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach out to my [email protected]
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