The Thriving Doctor – How to be more balanced and fulfilled, working in medicine.
It’s no secret that doctors are under pressure. COVID-19 has amplified their workplace stress, threatened their own wellbeing and demanded they work in conditions few others have to consider.
When doctors are well, patient health outcomes and experience improve according to Psychologist Sharee Johnson, who has written a book called The Thriving Doctor – how to be more balanced and fulfilled working in medicine. Sharee has been coaching doctors to help them perform better in their caregiving roles, for their own wellbeing and to help improve the healthcare system since 2014.
“To achieve the best possible healthcare results for patients, we want to make sure the provider of that care is as well as possible. We should all have a vested interest in the health of our doctors and all our healthcare workers, for their sake and our own” Sharee says.
Medical life is challenging. Many doctors sacrifice their own wellbeing to try and provide care for their patients. This is unsustainable and leads to more risk for the patient and the doctor. Sharee has written her new book The Thriving Doctor – how to be more balanced and fulfilled working in medicine to help doctors be well and to deliver the best medical care they can for the long term so that our healthcare system is sustainable.
“The ripple effects are enormous” she says. “If the doctor is unwell, it affects their judgement, their decision making, the way they relate to their colleagues and their patients, and their willingness to keep working as doctors”.
“If we do not do something to support our doctors, the healthcare system will fall over. Doctors cannot continue to work as they do, nor should we expect them to”. “We need a paradigm shift” she says. “Instead of patients first we need to be thinking about safety first so we can get some balance back into our healthcare system. Burning out doctors and developing systems that prevent them from having a life outside of medicine is unsustainable”.
Sharee spends her workdays listening to doctors tell their stories about working in healthcare. Stories of extraordinary commitment to our community, of endless training and exams, of fatigue, leadership, human suffering, and human triumph. Stories of trauma, moral injury, burnout, and imposter syndrome.
Doctors are trained in an environment of stoicism, perfectionism, and competition. This environment has it’s up sides of course, because it helps doctors strive to deliver the best possible healthcare they can. We all want that, but doctors are also human. They cannot be continually exposed to trauma, grief, suffering, disease, and death without it affecting them. The medical culture of high achievement, coupled with high expectations of care from the public, leads to unrealistic work hours, doctors who are emotionally disengaged and a heavy toll on their mental health, with too many doctors suffering high levels of burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, even suicide.
Johnson acknowledges the harsh realities of healthcare and clearly names some of the systems issues that need to change in The Thriving Doctor. As a psychologist coach, the author is interested in individual skill development and how individuals on their own, and collectively, can alter systems. It is her view that individuals create and change systems, and with the best will in the world, can only do so with self-awareness and interpersonal skill. Which is where coaching can help doctors raise their ability to lead themselves and others effectively.
The Thriving Doctor seeks to help doctors build the skills they need to take better care of themselves and each other. It also reminds those who employ and work with doctors that they are an incredibly valuable resource that we need to care for. It might even help the public understand what it is like to work as a doctor.
“Sharee’s book The Thriving Doctor is a gift to our profession, one for every medical student and doctor, junior and senior.”
Dr Vijay Roach, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, past President RANZCOG
In fact, the word gift keeps coming up from early readers of Johnson’s book with Dr Jonathan Fisher, US Cardiologist describing The Thriving Doctor as “a gift to doctors everywhere, whether they are already thriving in their life or they are struggling with burnout.”
Dr Fisher says of Johnson’s book “This is more than a book on thriving — it is a complete how-to guide for self-awareness and mindset mastery. There is practical wisdom here that we never got as medical students or at any time during our career. It is written with deep and palpable sense of compassion and care for doctors.”
Johnson wrote The Thriving Doctor during what has been the most difficult of times for doctors, but she has been working with doctors as their coach since 2014. “Doctors are the lynchpin in healthcare” she says, “it is my hope that as doctors improve their intra and interpersonal skills they will take better care of themselves and each other, meaning that we will all receive better care as patients. As doctors improve their skills and are better cared for, as we recognise the effort they make in service of our community, I hope the non-doctors of the world might also take better care of themselves, each other and the doctors amongst us.”
“Understanding ourselves, learning how to manage our minds, emotions, relationships will improve healthcare for us all” she says. Doctors can do better and feel better. Johnson is encouraging them to give themselves a higher priority, to start with themselves first.
The Thriving Doctor is available for purchase from online at Booktopia and Amazon and all good bookstores. Audiobook also available.