Physician Wellness Definition – Thriving vs. Surviving

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician wellness physician health program optPhysician Wellness ? => Thriving vs. Surviving

I have heard all sorts of people talking about physician wellness lately and it is clear there is no generally accepted definition for those two words. That is a BIG PROBLEM. Here’s why …

Until you and I understand what “Physician Wellness” is … it is going to be very hard to get some! So … Before you read any further. Take a moment to consider your answer to the following questions.

What does “Physician Wellness” mean to You ?

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  • What does Physician Wellness mean when you think specifically about You and Your Life as a physician ?
  • If you had some more of that “physician wellness” what would that look like ?
  • If you were in a state of complete physician wellness …
    what would that FEEL like ?

Most of us are trained to see the word “Wellness” to mean “the Absence of Disease”. We are trained to have a black and white view of the world. You have a disease (a problem) or you don’t.

Disease = “Sick”
No Disease = “Well”

Clean, simple, black and white. Here’s the problem. THAT definition is something we apply to our Patients. It is an OUTWARD focused evaluation. When we talk about Physician Wellness … you are looking in the mirror. You are looking at your own state of health and wellbeing. In this situation our Patient Evaluation mindset is out of place. In my opinion …

Physician Wellness is WAY more than the Absence of Disease

Physician Wellness is about maximizing the Quality of Your Life.
It is about how much you enjoy yourself, how  much you feel your work makes a difference in people’s lives, the quality of your relationships with the people most important to you. There is a very loose relationship between disease and this quality of life definition of physician wellness.

- You can be Disease Free and have a Crappy Life
- You can have multiple diseases, deal with them, and have a very Satisfying Life

“Wellness” is about Thriving rather than simply Surviving

The definition of Physician Wellness is nebulous when you discuss it as an abstract concept or a corporate goal – for a very good reason.

We all have our own unique definition of Physician Wellness

Physician Wellness = Your personal recipe for  Thriving.
For me, it is about investing time in meditation, hiking and travel, writing, keeping fit and spending time with my friends and family. For you it may be VERY different.

Take a moment now to think back to your generic “Physician Wellness” definition you came up with at the beginning of this article. NOW … thinking on a deeper and more personal level, what is your own personal “Thrival Recipe”.

How much do you live by this Recipe right now ?

If there is a BIG disconnect between your Wellness Recipe and your day to day life … it is because of a MASSIVE BLIND SPOT we all developed in our training. Here it is …

Until Now … You have Been Focused on Surviving NOT Thriving

In the grueling and traumatic process of medical school and residency we learned a number of mindsets and skills that allowed us to SURVIVE the process of becoming a doctor.

- You survived Medical School
- You survived Residency
- You have survived Private Practice with all its twists and turns

Most of us learned to become a Superhero | Workaholic | Emotion Free | Lone Ranger … just to SURVIVE the decade we spent getting the qualifications to hang out your shingle. And now … when it comes to your “Physician Wellness” we are flipping the switch from Surviving to Thriving. There is a BIG challenge here …

No one ever taught us how to Thrive

We have been taught how to see Problems everywhere … other people’s problems. To see danger and risk all around. To be professional, always have the right answer and dedicate ourselves to our patients. Great Survival Mechanism for becoming a doctor … NOT such a good skill set to build a fulfilling, rich, juicy, satisfying, happy LIFE. It is this survival mechanism, operating on autopilot, that sets us up for burnout in our 40′s and 50′s. These are not the skills you need to Thrive.

You have a choice here …

You can give up on the possibility of anything more than Survival.
Be happy with the simple “absence of disease” as your definition of Physician Wellness. Soldier on and hope you are healthy when you accumulate enough cash to be able to retire.

OR You can give yourself permission to THRIVE.

Learning your “Thrival Mechanism” is a PROCESS … it is NOT the flip of a switch. And I know one thing for sure. You made it through your medical training. You are smart, hard working, dedicated and supremely focused. You can build whatever Quality of Life or level of Physician Wellness you want going forward. The way you do that is the same way you learned every one of your doctor skills … one step at a time.

Here is a way to get started TODAY …

=> What is your personal definition of Physician Wellness …
What does it looks and feel like to THRIVE, rather than just SURVIVE
I strongly encourage you to flesh out  your definition in as much detail as possible and write it down on paper, date it and keep it in a safe place

=> What parts of that definition are you Not Living right now?

=> Which one of those would you like to get started on ?

=> What is the smallest step you can take to get going ?

=> Once you are clear on the step

- Schedule it
- Do it
- Celebrate it
- Choose your Step Two
- Keep Going …

Step By Step you build the Habits required to THRIVE
and step out of the skill set whose outcome dial is set to

Here’s to your Physician Wellness … from this point forward.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with your favorite Physician Wellness activity.

Tags: physician wellness, Physician Burnout, Physician Coaching, physician wellness definition