The 7 Habits of Physician Wellbeing

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

7H Banner 150H

This is Blog Post #415 - The full library is Here

I launched my website and physician coaching practice back in 2010.

Since then our team has trained and coached over 40,000 doctors to recognize, prevent and recover from burnout.

Along the way, our work has revealed what I believe to be a universal set of habits that create a state of wellbeing and satisfaction in practicing physicians - no matter what your specialty or how many hats you wear at work.

Book our 7 Habits LIVE Workshop
for your next Medical Staff Meeting
Use This Link to Start the Planning Process

This is not a prescription or a list of things you "should" do.

It is a pattern we have observed consistently across our seven member coaching team and our shared experience of thousands of physician coaching clients. The pattern emerges when we do our "exit interview" from a coaching relationship.

We usually meet a physician when their practice satisfaction is 5 or less (on a ten point scale) and their little voice is shouting, "I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going like this". Sometimes they are even questioning their choice to become a physician in the first place.

Over the course of 6 - 9 months, with regular coaching calls, well over 90% recover to a satisfaction score of 7 or more and "graduate" from coaching. As they graduate from our calls, we ask a simple question:

"What are you doing differently, now compared to when we first met?"

Every time, the doctor pauses looking up and left - sometimes for a full minute. Then they admit that only a couple of things have changed with a shrug or a gentle shake of the head.

  • Each has made three or four small changes on the outside: typically something to get home sooner and something to build more life balance.

  • Each has made a big change on the inside: a practice of staying calm and centered at work and always working to create a more Ideal Practice. 

These changes are the individual doctor's wellbeing habits. The new actions were responsible for their recovery from burnout. We have gathered and documented hundreds of new action variations in 13 years of these "exit interviews". 

Each habit is a simple action to address a stress point at work or at home. Take several of these habits - the ones that match your specific circumstances - incorporate them into a consistent practice and you will remain healthy and happy with both your career and your life. 

Each habit has a pair of consistent properties:

They work every time you take the action - most of the time with an immediate benefit.

They don't work if you don't work them! Consistent action, on a regular cadence, is key. It is very much like staying in shape. Eat right and work out - and you stay fit and trim. Work your wellness habits and you stay balanced an happy. Stop these good habits in either realm and things fall apart quickly. 


As I worked to organize these observations in order to teach them more effectively, distinct patterns emerged. They sorted themselves into seven categories - plus one more if you are an employee physician.  


The 7 Habits of Physician Wellbeing 

1) Heed the Call

2) Be the Eye of the Storm

3) Put your own mask on first

4) Play to win

5) Know your enemy

6) Deal with the 3 core dilemmas

i) Get home sooner

ii) Build life balance

iii) Lead your team

7) Escape the whirlwind

+1) For employee physicians: Learn how to manage your boss.

I am writing about these 7 Habits now to give you hope.

Post-COVID short staffing and the boomer doctor retirement cliff, the rise of the employee physician (90% of the latest residency graduates), the current 63% physician burnout rate can make the future seem like a dead end. You may be wondering how you can last until you pay off your student loans or build a nest egg that gives you confidence you can retire. 

That is an illusion.

There is a place for you and a practice that gives you the satisfaction you dreamed of back at the Lightworker's Fork.

From this point forward, winning that game of the successful, happy doctor will take active measures and a healthy cadence of working ON your practice rather than just IN it. (Habit 7).

These habits will give you a way to 

- Understand physician wellbeing as a journey of body, mind, heart and soul

- Learn a logical process to develop your own wellness strategy that will work in any set of circumstances. That strategy may involve making adjustments in your current position or finding a new and much better job. (our job search training is the absolute best)


Let's start with Habit #1 - HEED THE CALL

I actually started writing about each of the habits several blog posts ago before I was completely aware of the 7-parts of the complete structure.

Here is our shared origin story

Here is  our search for meaning in the whirlwind of the modern practice of medicine




Do the 7 habits make sense?
Which ones do you feel you have covered?
Which ones do feel need a little work?




Tags: physician wellness, physician wellbeing