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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Are You Relevant Outside of Clinical Practice?

I'm always surprised at the number of  physicians I work with who worry about, discount, or do not see their relevance outside of clinical practice.  I do, of course, recognize their relevance - the trick is to get the docs to.

For many physicians, positions of leadership within their own hospital (i.e., becoming a Department Chair, VP Medical Affairs or even Chief Medical Officer) may be a logical step for those looking to expand their skills and take on new responsibilities that grow their career.  The physicians that pursue these roles have obvious relevance in this arena, particularly when they bring the years of relationships and their history with the hospital into the role.

But for docs actually leaving the familiarity of the hospital environment, the fear of being irrelevant seems to be a common (if not typically expressed) theme.  Many physicians worry that while they have developed very deep skills and expertise, their repertoire is relatively narrow, and this makes them fear that they lack the requisite skills to be successful in the non-clinical world.  For most, this is simply not true.

Physicians come to the table with a myriad of transferable skills, as well as a wealth of needed knowledge and expertise.  Many times organizations are hungry for what the doctors have to offer, and for the value that they provide.   

In my experience, one of the best parts of working with physicians interested in non-clinical pursuits has been accompanying these intelligent, creative and energetic professionals as they realize that they have a lot more to offer - and are more in demand - then they ever thought they would be.  

The truth of the matter is that you, as a physician, bring years worth of skills and experience that can position you to be a tremendous value to organizations that lack your unique combination of ability and expertise.  Value comes in the form of younger docs with years of disciplined schooling under their belts and a willingness to "jump in", or mid-career physicians who have enough experience to know what they didn't know in the beginning (and how to use that for the best outcome), or seasoned docs that bring decades of experience and perspective with them into their role.  

Many of the physicians I know that have transitioned completely outside of medicine into start-ups, biotechs, or pharma companies often remark that they cannot believe the organization functioned without a doc in their role.  It gives them a window into the need for physicians' skills and knowledge base outside of clinical work, and how they can impact many more lives than they would seeing patients one-by-one.

They feel validated.  And indeed, they feel relevant.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Lighter Look at Coaching Med Students on Choosing a Specialty

These guys are funny!

I just came across FreelanceMD's new sister site dedicated to med students (Uncommon Student MD) and in curiosity clicked on this video.  To all our physicians out there, I DARE you to try not to laugh.
And I see that one of these intrepid beat boxers is now part of FreelanceMD's author group - fantastic!  It's great to see people who teach us all not to take ourselves too seriously.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Great Medical Fusion Conference

The beautiful Aria Resort, Las Vegas
I just returned from presenting again this year at the 2011 Medical Fusion Conference - what I think is the best conference out there for physicians who are exploring non-clinical career options.

Yet again it was a engaged group of docs who brought an openness and curiosity around "what else is out there" for themselves.  Held at the beautiful Aria Resort in Las Vegas, it also had a great faculty line-up, which included Dr. Barry Silbaugh, recently retired CEO of ACPE, who gave a great opening talk on "Leaving the Tribe" and why it is so difficult for many physicians to consider a move outside of clinical practice.  There was Dr. Ken Cohn, a fabulous speaker and all around great person who spearheads Healthcare Collaboration, got everyone on their feet and doing some hands-on activities during his two talks on "Should I Get An MBA?" and "Independent Consulting". Dr. Greg Bledsoe, the conference founder and Expedition Medicine expert, thrilled and grossed us all out with pictures of his many adventures in different countries and on different mountain tops.  Dr. Julie Silver, of Harvard Health Publications and an inspiring cancer survivorship advocate, spoke not only about writing and publishing a book, but she also got people fired up about how to get Information Products out on the web and making a difference!  These were just a few of the interesting and enlightening talks that were part of the two days.

Ashley Wendel presenting on Physician Career
Transition at the 2011 Medical Fusion
My talk focused on the "how" of career transition, giving the physician participants a roadmap for making their process - and non-clinical landing place - a sustainable one.  It is always refreshing to get out in front of this group, and to help provide them with some tools for growth.  

I think my favorite part of the conference is watching the participant group connect with each other and feel the collective energy they build.  Given the fact that transitioning out of clinical practice is still somewhat of  a taboo subject among physicians, it is great to see the openness and shared momentum that the group picks up over the course of the three days. 

Ashley Wendel, Dr. Fred Tobis, Dr. Greg Bledsoe,
and Dr. Ken Cohn  at the 2011 Medical Fusion
At the end of each conference my hope is that all of the great physicians I meet and talk to are able to maintain the clarity, focus and momentum that they build while they are in Las Vegas.  If anything, this conference gives everyone the chance to step back and assess their own professional direction, compare it with other peoples' paths, and think honestly if there is a better road for them than the one they are on... and if there is, start to make progress to make their goals - and true professional fulfillment - a reality.

For all of you that were there, I wish you best of luck in your career exploration and expansion into "post-clinical" work.

For those of you who weren't there, I hope we'll see you there next year!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Transition Tool for Docs #1: Developing Your CV Into A Resume

In my coaching work with physicians, one of my favorite things that many of my clients initially do is send me their CV so that I can “get a feel” for who they are and what they’ve done.  

Those CVs, while usually an impressive (and lengthy) foray into their education, academic experience, clinical positions and copious lectures and publications, often leave me still questioning who they are and what they bring to the table when considering work outside of the clinical realm.

You know your CV:  a long list of your academic degrees, certifications, clinical positions, appointments, and publications.  By now in your career it is probably 10-20 pages at least.  It reflects your professional position and progression.  But it has no place in a non-clinical career search.

Let me tell you why.

Industries outside of medicine are not the place for drawn-out reviews of where you’ve been, what you’ve done.  Instead of a CV, these environments require you to have a resume, a persuasive document that reflects who you are (your unique skills/experience and passions) and what you’ve accomplished (that is, problems you’ve solved) as a professional.

The best resumes also reflect how you will be able to solve the particular need / problem that your target industry or company faces.  They are tailored and individualized to the reader.

Granted, developing a resume like this takes work.  Many docs, who yes, are extremely busy, decide that they want to skip this step and instead turn their 20-page CV over to a professional resume writing service that within a few weeks (and hundreds of dollars) turns back to them a polished, slick, great-sounding resume.  But here’s the problem:  often those resumes just are that, great “sounding”, but without the "guts" that describes you and helps the prospective employer understand how you will add value to them.  A great-sounding resume can begin to feel very hollow if it doesn’t address the unique challenges of the target industry (company, job role, etc.), but instead speaks in generalities of skills or experience.  It will quickly find itself on the pile of many other great-sounding resumes, which are also devoid of real content that brings (and keeps) employers’ attention.

You need to change your CV to a resume, and you need to make it stand out.  So how do you start? 

Get to know the difference between a CV and a resume
CVs are typically lists of your "vitals":  your education, employment, research, publications, awards, patents,etc.  Resumes are meant to be persuasive descriptions of who you are and what you bring to the table, ones that demonstrate to any given reader that you can solve their unique business problem.  Your resume is less about you... instead it should tell your prospective employer what you can do for them.

Learn how to speak to your experience/expertise as a set of accomplishments
Rather than listing out previous job responsibilities or skills, look at your background in terms of the results you’ve achieved.  Think hard about what you've accomplished over the course of your career so far, brainstorm them out and frame your professional experience around those.

Use powerful, persuasive words to frame your accomplishments
Not just sound-bites, actual challenges you’ve faced, things you’ve done, and results you achieved, particularly as those relate to the position/role/company/industry you're interested in.

Tailor it to resonate with whoever is reading your resume
Recognize that your resume is a living document – it will change and morph over time, with the addition of new accomplishments and different audiences who will read it.  Your first pass is just that, your first pass.  Make sure your resume evolves along with you - update it regularly and for whoever is considering it.

Keep your resume in its place
Developing their resume is often the first place an eager, ambitious physician wants to start.  But recognize that in the grand scheme of physician career transition, the creation of a resume is not the number one step in successful career transformation!   It is not likely that your big-break, your non-clinical job, or your “big opportunity” will come as a result of an impressive piece of paper.  This is not to say that the resume isn’t important – it is.  But the resume is only a single element of successful transition.

Make sure that you’ve done your homework FIRST, to understand how you uniquely add value to any given industry or role.  Through a thorough analysis of your values, your unique skills, your passions, your education/past experience, you will see what you bring to the table as a whole, and how it applies to the role you’re interested in.  Believe it or not, you as a physician come with a myriad of transferable skills that can (and will) benefit companies in different industries.  But without this knowledge you cannot build a persuasive resume that hits the target “pain points” for any given employer and demonstrates how you will solve their problem.  

With some thought and customization you can take your resume from being a “great-sounding” (but hollow) document, to being a compelling representation of you that makes people want to talk to you.  Start at the beginning.  Think about your accomplishments and how they relate to your target audience.   And good luck!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Physicians - Are You Resilient?

We all like to think we are ... but how well do you really "bounce back" from life's stressful events?

I recently heard a wonderful interview with a woman who is 109 years old, and who continues to live independently, "with all her marbles and profoundly engaged with the world around her", as the interviewer noted.

A gerontologist, the interviewer noted that while the woman most likely has a gene that contributes to her unusual longevity, she also exhibits a powerful trait that professionals in his field call "adaptive competence".  In other words, from his experience with thousands of patients, his opinion is that the key to living to a long and healthy old age is the ability to keep moving forward after life's inevitable setbacks.  It's about being resilient.

It made me start thinking about the physicians I work with in a coaching capacity.  Many of them, I've noticed, are somewhat low on the resilience scale.  Why?  Maybe you can help me understand it.
Is it a function of highly intelligent people,  linear thinkers, who spend too much time thinking about the "what could happens", and the "likely probabilities"...?.  Is resilience, or "hardiness" as talked about in the psychological literature, something that's beaten out of you in medical school and residency, with a myriad of difficult experiences feeding off of each other in some kind of a closed loop?  Are physicians highly trained, with deep but narrow skills that tend to create a feeling of insecurity around their "other" abilities, and a sensitivity to rejection, hardship, or perceived failure?  What keeps docs from having an easy time "bouncing back"?  And what, if any, are the bigger ramifications of this, either for them personally, for their practice of medicine, or for their professional fulfillment?
What we do know is that resilience is one of those psychological traits that really matters both personally and professionally ... it affects how much stress you feel, how well you keep perspective on difficulties, how able you are to maintain healthy coping skills.  People low on the resilience scale tend to dwell on things, feel victimized, get overwhelmed and turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as avoidance of issues and escapism (such as substance abuse).  Conversely, people high on the resilience scale have higher levels of trust, tolerance for ambiguity, optimism and adaptability - all things associated with strong leadership and higher degrees of personal and professional success.
The APA (American Psychological Association) specifies a combination of factors that contribute to a person's resilience.  They include:
  • The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Skills in communication and problem-solving
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
How do you rate yourself?  How well do you:
  • View problems as opportunities?
  • Learn from your mistakes (and accept that you make them)?
  • Seek out new and challenging experiences?
  • Have a sense of humor and realistic optimism under stress?
  • Succeed despite hardships?
In today's practice environment, the need for resilience is stronger than ever.  In order to thrive in an atmosphere of uncertainty, increased performance demands, rapid change, and a growing feeling of loss of control, many physicians are forced to either "bounce" or flounder.
The good news is that even if you are one of those docs that tends towards the low end of the resilience scale, you can develop these skills ... even if they aren't second nature to you.  Here are 10 tips for building your resilience (thanks to the APA):
  • Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. 
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  • Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly -- even if it seems like a small accomplishment -- that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"
  • Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life.
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
  • Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
I encourage all of you to think about how your degree of resilience may be affecting your ability to attain personal or professional fulfillment or make positive changes in your life.  When there isn't much you can control, this is the one thing you do have a say in.  If that horse knocks you off, are you likely get right back in the saddle?  Or do you wait a while, nursing your wounds ... or not get back on at all?  It's worth exploring, for your sake and for those who you come into contact with every day.
Especially if you want to live to be 109.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong | Video on

I just spent 17 minutes of my day watching Kathryn Schulz give a talk on the meaning of being "wrong".  Best 17 minutes I've spent in a while.

Her premise is simple:  open yourself up to the possibility of what "else" is out there.  Challenge yourself to see the world through a different person's window ... or at least recognize that their are millions and millions of different windows out there .  Her message?  Embrace your wrong-ness.  It is an integral part of the human condition.  It drives us and helps us create.  It moves us forward as a species.

Physicians are especially prone  to not wanting to be "wrong".  It's true, being wrong can have desperately negative consequences in your line of work.  But for many docs this fear of risk, failure, and error, transfers over into other parts of their life, where being wrong is less clear-cut and the consequences more of a grey area.  They agonize over life changes, career moves, interpersonal challenges with colleagues, to the point of "analysis paralysis", where they are immobilized and unable to do anything.  But there is freedom in embracing wrong-ness as a possibility.  Kathryn speaks not only of being wrong, but of opening up your awareness of when you are unconsciously wrong, but think you're right.  This is a much more dangerous place to be.

Watch the video.  Think about how you feel about being wrong.  Open your window.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Available May2011: "Getting It Done: Experienced Healthcare Leaders Reveal Field-Tested Strategies for Clinical and Financial Success"

I'm so excited to be a part of this new book that is coming out next month.  Published by ACHE's publishing arm (Healthcare Administration Press) "Getting It Done" is full of tangible success stories and practical tips for rolling out programs to improve clinical and financial outcomes of any health organization.  The book is spearheaded by Kenneth Cohn, MD, MBA, FACS, CEO of Healthcare Collaboration and  Steven Fellows, FACHE, SVP and COO of Cottage Health System;  one a practicing general surgeon who consults with executive teams to build physician-hospital collboration, and the other who acts in an executive-administrative role within industry.  Both have years of expertise in their relative fields, and they have brought together an impressive cadre of healthcare leaders who have impactful stories to share.  "Getting It Done" is described as follows:

"Regardless of the outcome of national healthcare reform legislation, pressure is mounting on healthcare professionals to provide more cost-effective, coordinated care.
Nothing is more valuable than experience. Overcoming a challenge builds skills, knowledge, and confidence.  This book shares the hard-earned lessons of healthcare leaders who removed roadblocks to clinical and financial excellence. Each chapter describes a real-life dilemma, distills the lessons learned, and provides step-by-step guidance. Use the strategies presented in this book to tackle similar challenges in your organization with greater speed, confidence, and success. 
Physician engagement and collaboration are the common themes of these stories. Administrators, physicians, and nurses provide firsthand accounts of how they worked together to overcome obstacles and transform care for their communities.
Tap the wisdom and experience of healthcare leaders who:
  • Accelerated physician adoption of electronic health records
  • Cut mortality from sepsis
  • Transformed the culture of the operating room
  • Developed a successful ED-call pay program
  • Cut costs using strategic supply cost management
From the Foreword:  The editors have compiled an impressive set of insightful chapters by leading experts throughout the nation. The [chapter] authors do an excellent job of making the theoretical practical and the practical implementable."   -C. Duane Dauner, FACHE, President, California Health Association"

My contribution to this impressive book is a chapter co-authored  with Elizabeth Becker, LCSW, CEO of Inner Solutions for Success, entitled "Coaching Healthcare Teams to Improved Performance".  It focuses on the significant clinical outcomes produced by one large medical center's investment in improving their cardiothoracic surgeons' leadership skills and building more cohesive, streamlined OR and ICU clinical teams.  It includes key steps that were taken in the intervention, data on outcomes, and our"top ten" recommendations for dealing with similar situations in your own organization.

I encourage all of you to find and read this book!