The spiritual crisis of the employed physician

Our physician coaching team and I have extensive experience working with thousands of doctors over the past 13 years who have approached us feeling burned out, exhausted, and uncertain about their future.

We have developed a structured method to assist them in recovering from burnout by focusing on new strategies aimed at constructing their ideal practice.

For years, we’ve recognized that these strategies can be categorized into seven distinct groups.

It has recently become evident to me that each of these seven tool sets is essential for the health and wellbeing of modern physicians, yet all seven are absent from our current medical education system.

It’s puzzling to consider why medical training programs fail to equip doctors with the skills necessary to create practices that offer long-term fulfillment post-graduation. Why is this oversight occurring?

It appears that these skills are not deemed necessary to navigate the medical education journey.

However, they are undeniably crucial for building a fulfilling life around one’s choice to pursue a career in medicine.

The absence of these seven skill sets represents a significant gap in doctors’ education, leaving us all susceptible to burnout and its associated challenges. This gap is as concerning as neglecting to provide construction workers with hard hats or Marines with bulletproof vests.

When doctors are only equipped with clinical care skills within their specialty and lack the means to identify and cultivate their ideal practice or lead a meaningful and balanced life, they are left vulnerable—particularly in today’s profit-driven and understaffed medical landscape.

These skills are fundamental for ensuring a long and healthy career as a practicing physician.

Here are the seven missing skill sets from the medical education process:

Skills for defining, building, defending, and maintaining one’s personal ideal practice. While residency teaches us how to survive, it neglects to address defining our ideal practice. Many doctors find themselves constrained by their employment contracts, particularly as the majority are now employees. It’s crucial to carve out space within our roles for the meaning and purpose necessary to fulfill our calling as health care professionals.

Efficiency skills to enhance work-life balance. Proven methods to complete tasks efficiently and return home sooner without increasing workload.

Techniques for achieving a life balance and setting boundaries. Simple strategies to incorporate more balance into daily, weekly, and monthly routines, enhancing the ability to recharge during time off.

Mindfulness, presence, and emotional regulation skills during hectic workdays. These “eye of the storm” lessons have been proven to reduce stress among practicing physicians.

Strategies for managing superiors, particularly for employee physicians. Building positive relationships up and across the hierarchy, rather than risking being labeled as disruptive, is essential. It is also vital to learn how to advocate for one’s ideal practice even without being in a position of authority.

Leadership tools for effective leadership. Moving away from traditional leadership styles toward servant leadership can lighten the load and engage the team more effectively.

Proven job search skills. Recognizing when a job change is necessary and navigating the process—from searching and interviewing to negotiating contracts—is crucial for finding better opportunities.

It’s important to note that this list isn’t exhaustive but represents key skill sets that could benefit modern physicians.

Implementing these missing skills

By utilizing your ideal practice description as a guide in your action plan, 70 percent of our clients have successfully recovered from burnout and achieved at least a 70 percent alignment with their ideal practice without changing jobs. For those requiring a change, a single job search often leads to significant improvement.

There is a concrete plan to restore meaning and purpose to medical practice and reaffirm faith in the decision to pursue medicine. The goal is to ensure that 20 years from now, there are no regrets and only a smile of contentment.

Dike Drummond is a Mayo-trained family practice physician, burnout survivor, executive coach, consultant, and founder of He teaches simple methods to help individual physicians and organizations recognize and prevent physician burnout. These tools were discovered and tested through Dr. Drummond’s 3,000+ hours of physician coaching experience. Since 2010, he has also delivered physician wellness training to over 40,000 doctors on behalf of 175 corporate and association clients on four continents. His current work is focused on the 7 Habits of Physician Wellbeing. Dr. Drummond has also trained 250 Physician Wellness Champions, and his Quadruple Aim Blueprint Corporate Physician Wellness Strategy is designed to launch all five components in a single onsite day. He can also be reached on Facebook, X @dikedrummond, and on his podcast, Physicians on Purpose.

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