During her training as a family medicine physician, Dr. Errin Weisman began feeling the symptoms of burnout in her last few years of residency. She was chief resident and the go-to person in her class, but she started every day feeling like she was trudging up a hill that just kept getting steeper.
She got to the point where she almost considered leaving the field – and that’s when she looked for help and found it in the form of a physician life coach. Working with her coach completely changed her view of her work and medicine and inspired Dr. Weisman to become a coach herself to help peers going through the same things.
Finding sustainable ways to conquer burnout is especially important as 42% of physicians report feeling burnout and more and more physicians consider retiring early or leaving the field. In this edition of our “Doctor And…” blog series, we spoke with Dr. Weisman about how her experience with burnout and life coaching has inspired her to return the favor for her peers.
What drew you to medicine? What did your initial path look like?
I always tell people that the first time I knew medicine was my true calling was back when I was young. My brother got very sick, so I started poking around in an old medical journal I’d gotten during a yard sale. I remember telling my Dad that I thought he had appendicitis, but of course he didn’t believe me. Cut to a few hours later, they were in the ER and my brother was being rushed back to surgery because he had a ruptured appendix. I felt like a seventh grade genius.
Throughout school, I always loved biology and knew I wanted to do something in a helping profession. I’m very much a people person as well, so medicine seemed like the perfect marriage of all those different aspects of myself.
At what point did you discover physician life coaching?
I’m a DO by training and I trained in Family Medicine at Deaconess Family Medical Residency Program before going out into practice. What I didn’t realize as I started practicing, was that I was already burned out in residency. I thought by making the transition from residency into private practice, it was gonna get better. But when I got into practice, it wasn’t better. As the only female physician in a county of five doctors, it was overwhelming at time.
It was honestly about six months into residency that I had a great awakening and realized that I couldn’t do this for the next 30 years of my life. I kept asking myself, am I broken? Had I made a huge mistake going into medicine? I was ready to pack it up and go work a regular day job somewhere, but then I did something I always tell my patients not to do – I got on the internet.
What I found there surprised me. I found hundreds of other doctors who felt the same way I did and I was so glad to know that it wasn’t all me. I found this site called The Entrepreneurial MD, run by a physician turned life coach who was training physicians on how to re-find their passion in life. After going through a free trial, I realized that I needed to be talking to this woman, so I started doing personal coaching with her.
Tell me a little more about your experience with physician life coaching.
For me, life coaching is all about really facing stuff that gets pushed aside for decades because we’re trying to get through school, and training, and call. It’s about reminding us of an essential part of our being that we need to really remember: who we are, and what our core values are. It helps us to remember what enlightens us and invigorates us helps to re-find that spark in medicine.
The more time I spent with my coach, the more I realized that it was something that should be available to all doctors.
Getting coaching helped me realize that you are never stuck and there are always workarounds for your situation, if you just allow yourself to explore.
I realized that I really could be a physician, a mom of three, and a wife and still love all three of my roles. I now feel full engaged in all of them, even though it took a while to get that balance. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a box because in reality, we are a group of very intelligent and highly educated innovators. We can do anything.
From there, how did you decide to start your own life coaching business – Truth Prescriptions?
Initially I started putting out these social media squares that I called “Truth Prescriptions”. They were just quippy little quotes, but I felt like I just needed to put something out into the world because I wanted to help my fellow peers.
That ended up transforming into an actual coaching business, but the name stuck. I will admit that starting my own business was a little scary, but I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to be my own boss. Having people reach out to me and ask me for advice and coaching helped me to realize that this was something I could really help people by doing.
How would you describe you work as a physician life coach today?
When I’m not being Dr. Weisman to patients, I split my time between being super engaged on social media, and meeting with my clients. Since I live in the middle of Indiana, most people come to me through the internet, or are colleagues I’ve met conferences or through previous connections.
I like to put myself out there through blog posts and video blogging on topics that really matter to me. Things like the Sunday dreads of going back to work on Monday or speaking candidly about burnout. I also like to talk on topics that we aren’t taught in medical school – things like contract negotiation, or meeting formats, or how to ask for what you want in a position.
I also have open Facebook groups where people can seek help and build a community with other physicians. For those who want more direct coaching, I meet in both group and solo settings to help everyone work through their own unique struggles.
For me, coaching isn’t me just giving you the answers. Coaching is you talking with me, and me asking insightful questions so that your answers just flow out.
Coaching is helping you realize that the answers are within you, you just need help to get out of the box and approach the problem from a different direction.
You still practice through locums work. Tell me a little about what that’s been like.
I’m currently an independent contractor with my ER group and it’s been great for my schedule, because I can choose my own hours and choose when I want to take time off. I’ve had to learn how to do things like my own tax withholdings and finding family insurance, but I really do appreciate the freedom that doing this kind of freelance work allows me to have.
How do you balance the work you do as a life coach and your clinical work?
The key is being careful that I don’t invest too much in either side. For instance, if I’m picking up more shifts, I just have to be careful to balance that in other areas. It’s all a give and take in different aspects of your life. So if you can give in one aspect, you need to take back in another.
I always remind people that when it’s all give, give, give, you quickly end up running out of steam.
Life is about finding that give and take that works for you, there’s never going to be a perfect static balance. And that’s ok.
What kind of potential do you see in life coaching to help clinicians with burnout?
I really think that we should be teaching this stuff to our residents and medical students. Helping to figure out fundamental facts about themselves, and reminding them of their core values and what defines them outside being a doctor, can help them both at and outside of work.
Healthcare is on the brink of fundamental changes. Things like the gender pay gap, which we’ve known for years, are finally hitting the internet. Things are changing because physicians are speaking up. It’s time to change our model of care to make things better for us and better for our patients. But before we can change that model, we’ve got to get real and authentic with ourselves.
For too long we’ve just been the white coat. Now it’s time to be the person under the white coat.
What advice do you have for doctors who might’ve never heard of life coaching before?
I would say check it out. Get on the phone with a life coach. I’m more than happy to just talk with anyone – completely free. It’s not about the money for me. As a physician, I truly just want to have a heart-to-heart with my peers.
I want to help you go from surviving in healthcare, to thriving in healthcare.
Get online and start looking things up. Get a book, there are plenty of great coaching books and podcasts out there. By answering these hard questions for yourself, regardless of how you do it, and finding out where you’re bringing negativity into your life, you can find a way to combat it.
For me, my biggest struggle was combatting the false belief I had that quitting your job made you a failure. Well, I quit my job. But I’m not a failure now. Find a venue that works for you, whether it’s alone, group, or one-on-one coaching. It can only make your life better.
Thank you to Dr. Weisman for speaking with us about her experience with burnout and how life coaching helped her find fulfilment in her career. You can find her at Truth Prescriptions and check out her book Doctor Me First , a resource created to help anyone work through their burnout.
Are you a doctorpreneur with a story you’d like to share with the Nomad community? Send us a message, we’d love to learn more!
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