This post is a report on my results after 3 months of physician coaching and my review of the Alpha Coaching Experience.
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The TLDR: The Alpha Coaching Experience was money well spent. It led to some significant breakthroughs and personal growth. I’m now less burnt out and ready to tackle new challenges. Get on their waitlist now for $500 off and a free copy of my eBook “How to Control Your Financial Destiny.” Click below to learn more. (Affiliate link)
After 3 months of life coaching, I’ve had one mind-blowing realization that is changing my life: You are in control of the way you perceive your world.
I previewed this concept a while back when I wrote about some early thoughts from my coaching experience. In this post, I introduced the concepts of circumstances and thoughts. I also revealed that separating these two things in your life is one of the central secrets of gaining control of your life.
Read more: Is This the Secret of Life Coaching?
But why did I decide to spend $5000 on a three month journey of self-discovery? That’s a lot of money that I could have sunk into our expensive renovation project in Palm Springs. Well, it comes back to burnout.
Physician burnout is a big problem
Medical education in the US is very good at teaching trainees the skills necessary to be competent physicians. This is because medical training programs are regularly evaluated on the quality of their education.
So surgical residency training will reliably teach a surgeon how to cut and sew tissue. A medical doctor will also learn how to diagnose pancreatitis or renal failure in residency. But based on my experience, these programs are pretty bad at teaching things like interpersonal skills, introspection, and goal setting.
It’s therefore no surprise to me that when individual physicians finally graduate residency or fellowship, they struggle to find new goals and cope with the monotony and repetition of a stable worklife. This lack of new career goals can combine with the indignities of clinical practice to produce a perfect storm for burnout.
What kind of indignities? How about difficult or violent patients, endless training modules, documentation, and messages? How about sleepless nights on call and pressure to see more and more patients per hour in clinic?
Solving physician burnout is expensive
Unfortunately, supporting physician wellness in a meaningful way can be costly. Increasing the time we get to spend per patient means hiring more physicians or physician extenders. Diverting routine patient messages that don’t need physician attention requires enough staff to deal with the flood.
And no matter what healthcare system you’re a part of, physician wellness is going to be secondary to the bottom line. You can see the reasoning from the employer’s perspective: physician wellness doesn’t matter if the hospital or medical office goes under because it can’t pay its bills.
That’s why we often see “resilience lunches” and “gratitude emails” from the healthcare leadership, instead of more costly (and effective) solutions like hiring more doctors and nurses. Ensuring excellent professional growth, career satisfaction, and healthy work-life balances is tough in the cut-throat world of healthcare organizations in America. Not impossible, but tough.
When you add on a pandemic, it’s a perfect storm for an “epidemic of physician burnout” and emotional exhaustion. We now have the “Great Resignation” decimating the ranks of health care workers. This makes it even harder for the physicians who remain to do their jobs.
Enter physician coaches
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Over the past ten years, a cottage industry of physician coaches has arisen to serve this need. Professional coaching has been around a long time, but the concept of physicians coaching other physicians is a newer phenomenon.
It used to be the case that physicians looked suspiciously on professional coaches, but I don’t think this is the case anymore. Especially with good evidence about the effectiveness of a coaching program in improving job satisfaction, I think doctors are now ready to embrace coaching.
And with a new crop of physician coaches graduating from degree granting coaching programs, there are now well trained physician coaches to meet this need.
What did coaching teach me?
As I noted above, I took a three month coaching program. It was led by physicians who’ve had formal training in coaching. Over the course, I had a deceptively simple realization: I learned that I’m in control of the way I perceive my world.
This realization has been life-changing. It’s led to a significant reduction in my day to day stress, and a new willingness to mold my world to maximize my health and happiness. Even though I’m in a leadership role in my hospital, I’m now more able to separate the stresses of my job from my personal life.
But how does it actually work?
Remember that movie Memento starring Guy Pierce? (Spoiler alert)
It’s about a guy who suffers from a special form of amnesia where he can’t form any new memories. So he literally has to leave himself Post-It notes about what’s going on in his life. Whatever he reads then becomes his new reality.
My breakthrough moment was when I realized that I have the power to leave these Post-Its for myself. I just have to realize that it’s in my power to interpret the world in the way that’s most beneficial to me. These mental Post-Its are my thoughts (beliefs) about my circumstances (facts). They’re my thoughts, so I’m in control of them. These thoughts can shape my reality in powerful and positive ways.
How I got here
In the midst of the pandemic, I got to a point where I felt roadblocked and stuck. I’d made a lot of progress in my life to self-actualize as an educator and investor, but I felt uncertain of how to keep progressing. I realized that I was literally spending hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in real estate, but virtually nothing on investing in myself. So I signed up for the Alpha Coaching Experience, led by Jimmy Turner, MD (AKA The Physician Philosopher).
The Alpha Coaching Experience
Dr. Turner is an anesthesiologist and expert in personal finance, mindset, and coaching. He created a coaching program run by physicians for physicians. It’s a well balanced mix of video content and live virtual coaching.
This is what is included:
- Virtual training modules: Learn mastery over Mindset, Money, and Ideal Life
- Weekly group coaching with Dr. Turner
- Weekly small group and one on one coaching with individual physician coaches
While I couldn’t attend every session due to my work schedule, I made it a priority to try to attend as much as I could. The sessions were all conducted virtually via video conferencing.
I found the group sessions useful to learn the process of coaching and see the types of problems facing the physician community. But the real progress took place in my one on one sessions. I had access to about a half dozen individual coaches, and talked to four different coaches over the course of the program.
These are some of the topics we covered:
- Work-life balance
- Work related anxiety and guilt
- How to prioritize my goals
- How to separate circumstances (facts) from my beliefs (thoughts)
An example of how coaching helped me
After about two months of rehashing the same few concerns and feeling psychologically roadblocked, I had a breakthrough in a one on one coaching session.
Here was my issue: I really wanted to change my work schedule so that it defaulted to a full-time 100% workweek, as opposed to the 120-125% schedule which was my standard.
My usual work week used to be about 50 hours of scheduled clinic, call, or surgery. With another 10 hours a week of commuting (plus overnight call), I was finding it incredibly difficult to maintain my other passions: this blog, real estate investing, and my education outreach. This was leading to professional burnout and mental exhaustion. No amount of time management skills seemed up to the task of balancing my personal and professional life.
If I could just go to a “normal” 40 hour week base schedule, I figured that I’d enjoy my job more and also have the time to pursue my side interests. I also saw an opportunity to exercise more and see my family.
But with a high annual spend rate and with my leadership position, I had some worries:
- I’d be losing income
- My department might struggle to provide expedient patient care
- I wanted to set a good example to my colleagues
In the one on one sessions, I was able to address these worries. I was able to separate the facts (circumstances) from my beliefs (thoughts) and move forward.
I realized that due to taxes, my income loss would be far less noticeable than I thought. Most of the money that comes in from my overtime is taxed around 50% between state and federal income taxes.
I also realized that as a department of 14 surgeons, my schedule change would be unlikely to change our overall patient care. Finally, I saw that by prioritizing my own mental and physical health, I’d be providing the best example to my peers.
So I let our scheduler know that I’d be making a change. In December, I started on my 100% schedule. I’ve already seen my quality of life increase significantly.
You might be thinking to yourself: “Big deal, you made a little schedule change at work. Whoopee.” I understand that.
But for me, gaining the ability to focus on my personal growth over my professional career development is an incredible leap forward. My entire life until this point has been about achieving the next academic or career transition. Taking this small step back professionally will open the door to a very interesting new phase of my life.
I can firmly say that I wouldn’t be as far along in my personal development without the three month coaching experience.
So if you’re considering some physician coaching, I heartily recommend it. The new level of awareness I have over my thoughts is my new superpower. It’s unlocked the ability to better balance my professional goals with my personal growth.
The money I spent on coaching wasn’t small, but I see it as a good investment into burnout prevention. By learning to separate my thoughts from my circumstances, I feel that I can finally maximize both my personal and professional potential. I’d also venture a guess that this small investment will unlock magnitudes more return via my other business pursuits.
If you think physician coaching is for you, I heartily recommend the Alpha Coaching Experience with Jimmy Turner, MD. If you have questions, I’ll be happy to schedule a 15 minute call with you to discuss my experience (just email me). Learn more here and get on their waitlist now for $500 off and a free copy of my eBook “How to Control Your Financial Destiny.”
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