Physician wellness and work-life balance are hot topics in today’s medical arena. It is on the minds of medical students, residents, and physicians in practice. While the concepts and methods to achieve it are enticing, the question remains how does the individual physician achieve it. Some believe that system wide changes in medicine will get doctors closer to these goals. Then there are the supporters of strategies that physicians can implement to shift their mindset as the first step toward their goals.

Personally I believe the answer lies in a combined approach. Let’s face it, not every change in the work environment will appeal to all professionals. I like the idea of being empowered to create a career that blends in nicely with my life, rather than leave it to others who do not fully understand my needs.

How does a doctor educated and trained in a system that puts everyone else and every thing else first, make the shifts and become part of the creative process? Here are 10 telltale signs that you’re a physician in need of a mindset shift as the first step towards physician well-being and work-life balance.

  1. You followed the clear path from medical school to residency training to an amazing attending position and find yourself asking, “Now What?”
  2. You have a great work ethic, often willing to cover for a colleague, receive fantastic evaluations but little meaningful feedback for your next level of growth.
  3. You experience success, but in between the success you live in the valley feeling like an imposter, not good enough, and suffer from wavering self-confidence.
  4. You are not experiencing what you truly desire in your life and career despite changing positions, roles, and even location.
  5. You are in a rut, want a way out but don’t want anyone to tell you what to do.
  6. You feel guilty that your life and career are flowing while you watch colleagues struggle, so you down play and minimize your achievements and don’t celebrate them.
  7. You quickly join the water cooler conversations about what’s not working in healthcare.
  8. Your inner critic takes center stage in most conversations.
  9. You lack the life skills and strategies to manage the inherent stress of caring for sick patients that will promote your wellbeing so instead you focus on the problems of the current climate in medicine.
  10. You silence and ignore your intuition and the inner voice that tries to get your attention and guide you toward your next level personally and professionally.

The first step to change is to recognizing the signs that a shift is needed. It’s a powerful step. Without it doctors can change jobs, positions, and decrease the number of shifts worked and still find themselves no closer to the work-life balance and well-being they read about and crave. Our thoughts and beliefs must be in alignment with what we desire to achieve in this new era of medicine where medicine finally acknowledges the importance of physician life.