Riskfactor: Creative art of medicine

According to Martin Willoubghby of Medical News, it is difficult for a doctor to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Even though the compensation can be good, the stress is omnipresent. In addition to stress related to patient care, there’s also stress involved in operating a medical practice. The results of these stressors leave many physicians at the brink of burnout.

Willoubghby believes that the potential for burnout is real. According to the American College of obstetricans and gynecologists (ACOG), 67 per cent of 1,200 physicians surveyed reported symptoms of burnout. A study published in the Western Journal of Medicine (2001) found a correlation between burnout and a perception of loss of control. The study concluded that lack of perceived control was the best predictor of burnout. Interestingly, in a survey by the journal Hippocrates, 73 per cent of physicians cited “daily interaction with patients” as the most important or rewarding aspect of practicing medicine.

T Jock Murray, director of the medical humanities programme at Dalhousie University in Halifax, noted in the Annals of Internal Medicine: “Physicians still love their patients and love to see their patients. It’s the other things that are burning them out.”

However, as Willoubghby says, by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset, physicians can better focus on their true passions in practicing medicine. Entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges of busy physicians. They usually start their business with a skill and passion to pursue their dream. However, they usually get quickly bogged down in HR issues, accounting matters, and myriad realities of running a business. This entrepreneurial ceiling often dashes the dreams of many aspiring entrepreneurs.

The answer lies in grabbing hold of two big ideas. First, physicians must implement sound “systems” in their business. This brings about the control that is often elusive and allows them to better focus on what they truly enjoy doing. Second, physicians need to adopt more of an artistic mindset. No, this doesn’t mean they need to bring a paintbrush to work. It means that they view their true work like an artist. Your medical practice is where you get to give yourself away each day in the creative art of medicine. This is a paradigm shifting way to view your life and work.

Mississippi Delta native Darden North is a great example of a physician who has embraced these big ideas as per Willoubbghby. As an obstetrician with Jackson Healthcare for Women PA in Mississippi in the US, North has been practicing medicine since 1986. His 15-physician practice is innovative, with streamlined operations. This set­-up has allowed North and his partners not only to provide personal, quality care for their patients, but it’s also allowed each of them to have a life, not just a job.

After his kids graduated from high school, and with the support of his wife, Sally, North pursued the dream of having a book published. He wrote his first medical thriller, House Call, in 2005. Points of Origin was published in 2006 and Fresh Frozen in 2008. Points of Origin was recognised in Southern Fiction in the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Awards, and House Call was a mystery/suspense finalist in the 2008 New Generation Indie Book Awards.

Fresh Frozen has received numerous national rewards as well. To date, North’s books have sold more than 17,000 copies. This is an impressive feat, particularly in light of the fact that most books on the shelf at your local bookstore will only usually sell 2,000 copies. North is now busy writing a fourth novel.

Furthermore, if you are a physician who can code, get a co­-founder. If you are a physician who did an MBA, get a co­-founder. If you are physician who has 2 million Twitter followers, get a co-founder. Whatever your expertise is, apart from your medical specialty, the likelihood of success strongly increases if you have a partner. It decreases with the amount of founders from that point on. This is vital, not only because you need somebody with a complimentary skill set, but also, because if you really want to build a company then it will be a roller coaster ride.

Usually, founders without a business background think that their idea is worth a ton. They believe that the idea is what makes the entire thing special. Even though it has been written over and over, many still do not recognise the fact that it’s all about the execution. Actually, there is a very high chance that your initial idea will transform itself over the course of time. Really, an idea is nice, but there are millions of ideas out there.

So what's the bottom line? As we journey down the path of exploring entrepreneurial thinking in this column space, it’s good to begin by understanding the pressures and stressors that physicians face, just like many other entrepreneurs. It is important to review best practices for creating systems in medical practices and how to create opportunities to pursue your true passions. This will lead to greater job satisfaction and reduced burnout.

North’s use of creative energy in both his practice and writing pursuits is a great example of what can be achieved with a desire to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.

(Varun Dutt is on the

faculty of Indian Institute of

Technology, Mandi. He is also knowledge editor of

Financial Chronicle)


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