Taking responsibility for your own medical practice is the first step to making it ideal.
The Keys to Career Satisfaction
Taking responsibility for your own medical practice is the first step to making it ideal. If you asked me to evaluate your practice, here's how I'd do it: I'd sit down with you and ask you to play word association with me. You know, “Tell me the first thought that comes to you when I say ____.” In this case, I would say “practicing medicine.”
There are many skills and competencies that physicians are asked to master. But we get the least training on the attitudinal skills. Physicians who are excited about what they're doing and their possibilities for improvement, achievement, and advancement are 80% of the way to achieving an ideal practice—a practice with low stress, high income, and lots of time off. All they need is a few good strategies and techniques to make that happen.
Creating the ideal practice is 80% about WHY and 20% about HOW. (And the HOW is easier than the WHY.) If you have great reasons to develop your dream practice, if you have ideas in mind that get you “juiced up” and excited, you've got the WHY. If you've got the WHY, you accept total responsibility for your practice success.
You’re In Charge
The most important choice you can make in practice is not which drugs to write, which seminars to attend or which IPO to join. The most important choice you can make is to accept full and total responsibility for every aspect of your practice. That’s what separates successful from unsuccessful practices and superior from average doctors. It is the major trait of leadership.
Taking full responsibility for your practice means you refuse to make excuses or blame others. It means you have no time to complain about your current situation or lament the past. It means you are fully focused on the best and highest use of your time as you develop your ideal practice. It means you measure your progress as you proceed to your goals and you work with a sense of urgency. It means you focus on what you really want and how to get it.
Accepting responsibility makes you feel personally effective. It gives you a tremendous sense of control over your life and your practice. The more responsibility you accept, the more confidence and energy you have and the more capable you feel.
Beyond creating a practice you love to go to every day, accepting responsibility is the foundation of high self-esteem, self-respect, and personal pride. When you blame others, complain, or criticize, you give away your power. You weaken yourself and your resolve. When you blame or complain, you give emotional control over to the people and situations on which you are focused.
But here's the irony. Even if you have abdicated emotional control by blaming someone or something else, YOU are still responsible. The only thing you have accomplished is to diminish your own level of control. You begin to feel and act as the victim. You become passive and resigned rather than powerful and proactive. You feel the world is on top of you, rather than the other way around.
You must respond to every situation—good or bad—by saying, “I am responsible.” This is an absolute necessity if you want to increase your income and your time off and decrease your stress.
When you say, “I am responsible” you break out of the hypnosis of doubt and unhappiness. You are galvanized into action—you become focused on finding the best solution and implementing it. You switch over to macro thinking. You focus on YOUR overall goals in practice: your income, your time off, your stress level.
Here is your exercise to accept more responsibility in your practice:
1) Sit down with pen and paper for at least 30 minutes and write down the reasons you went into medicine in the first place. Tap into the emotions. Don't say, “to provide high quality medical care;” that sounds like a brochure. Think about how you saw yourself interacting with patients, staff, community leaders; think about the kind of lifestyle you want for yourself and your family—where you live, what schools your kids go to, how many vacations you take per year. Don't judge your answers, just capture them as they were way back when.
2) Decide on the number one thing you could do to improve your current practice, the one thing that would be most meaningful to YOU as a person. It could be better patient satisfaction, more cohesion among staff, bringing on an associate or midlevel, more time off, more income—be honest. Name whatever is important to you.
3) Every day, before you go to the office, stand in front of your mirror and read aloud your answers to numbers one and two above. The sillier you feel doing this, the more it will help you.
4) At the end of every day at the office, reflect over the day's work and write down one change you can make that will move you closer to your number one improvement initiative (item #2) and resolve to work on that the next day.
The means to find greater satisfaction within your practice is to work first on you, then on the business side of your practice. Make these two things a priority. Otherwise, seeing patients, completing and reviewing charts and putting out fires will consume your time and mental energy and become the dominant focus of your practice.
Dr. Zahaluk has been in primary care in the Dallas, TX area since 1998. He is the founder of MIP Consulting Group, a program that helps physicians find greater satisfaction and financial security from their practices. His latest book is The Ultimate Practice Building Book.