Why would a physician become a coach?

Back in the day, being a doctor included being a coach. Getting to know our patients, discussing their desires, their strengths and weakness, and how best to approach keeping them healthy within their unique set of life circumstances. Back in the day, we docs could spend an extra ten minutes schmoozing and doctors came to understand their patients' needs and special circumstances.

In this age of commercialized medicine, there is no time to actually get to know our patients-- who have now become our "customers"-- and it is rare that in the 15 minutes or less allotted to the doctor/patient encounter, that there is time for more than a cursory history and physical exam regarding one focused problem, making a diagnosis (assuming it is an easily diagnosable problem), prescribing medication or other instructions, and charting it all in the electronic medical record, or EMR. Half of that 15 minutes may be spent just charting in the EMR.

After 30 years, I had to give it up. Life is too short to be unhappy so much of the time. To dread getting up in the morning to go to work, to spend my days feeling stressed, exhausted, and feeling like a hamster on a wheel. It didn't matter that I was earning more money than I ever thought I would, or that I have a wealth of experience that a few of my colleagues would occasionally ask me to share, or that rarely, I could feel like I made a difference for someone in need. There seems little time or place for that in the "real"world of medicine now.

After I wrote my book, CODE BLUE: The Other End of the Stethoscope, I could not pretend I didn't know how miserable I was. Being true to myself has always been a priority, and to continue to live a life of such darkness was inauthentic for me. And, I refuse to wake up in ten or twenty years and say: why didn't I do something different? 

So now I am a coach. A coach does NOT diagnose, treat, refer, or make medical recommendations. I leave my medicine hat off and instead, I get to spend time talking to clients, getting to know them, and helping them discover their inner strengths. I can help them devise their own strategies, cheer them on, and together we can celebrate their victories, big and small. I can do those human things I used to really enjoy about being a doctor. And, no more prescriptions (which may or may not be covered), no more insurance authorizations (which may or may not be forthcoming), and no more hoping I haven't missed something in a diagnosis because maybe I didn't get to hear the whole story in the three minute history of a patient's illness. How could I, when I'm expected to see 50 patients in a day? Now I just attend to the human side, my patients' and my own.

Because often, we know the answers to the important questions in our lives, but we shy away from facing the questions themselves. Because change is scary. But as the plaque on my kitchen wall says:

Life is change
Growth is optional
Choose wisely


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