Have you ever been at a place where you just didn’t want to go to work anymore? Maybe… you’re feeling tired, emotionally callous, worn-out… burned out.
I read a statistic the other day that shocked me… 50%, yup, that’s no lie, 50%- 1 out of every 2 physicians are burned out today.
Our next guest is a physician that underwent fellowship training in integrative medicine. She spent 15 years in a private internal medicine practice. She then transitioned out of practice by combining integrative medicine with mindfulness solutions.
Today, she is helping physicians navigate through turbulent waters to find peace of mind and living the life of their dreams.
In this podcast, Dr. Aikens reveals:
– 5 ways mindfulness can increase your resilience
– How physicians get caught like a deer in the headlights & the myth of the stories we tell ourselves
– Discover the story of one cardiologist who wanted to stay in medicine & re-found his passion & love for medicine
– 3 facts about physician coaches that will keep you up at night, if you don’t have the right coach!
(Note: I outsource transcription efforts, please forgive in advance any grammatical errors. I just simply don’t have time to review it all)
Welcome to the freedom formula for physicians podcast with all about slashing your debt and taxes and creating a liberated lifestyle. And now, your host, with the love of fantasy books and funk and the hatred of running more than three miles; Dave Denniston.
Hey my name is Dave Denniston and welcome back to the latest episode of the freedom formula for physicians podcast. Let me ask you a question; have you ever been at a poise where you just didn’t want to go to work anymore? Maybe you are feeling tired, emotionally callous, worn out, burned out.
And I read a statistic the other day that really shocked me; 50%, yup that`s no lie, 50%. One out of every 2 physicians are burned out today.
And in the mist of working for large hospitals, and practices and during a grueling work schedule, physicians like you are struggling with this more than ever before. That’s why I thought I would bring us a guest; Dr. Kim Aikens.
Before undergoing fellowship training in integrative medicine, Dr. Aikens spent 15 years in private internal medicine practice and then went through fellowship training in Integrative Medicine. And do tell her interests in line to bring along both integrative medicine and mindful solution for cooperate health, she design this really cool approach; the Aikens Approach.
And she works with physicians and corporate folks on tackling burnout as well as on career coaching. So I think there is going to be some awesome stuff for us here today. Well welcome Kim.
Kim: hi thanks Dave, thanks for having me here.
Dave: you are back, glad to have you. So let`s kick this off, tell us a bit about you, I mentioned in the introduction that you are a physician.
Dave: now you do what I suggest for many physicians to do that`s awesome and that`s to start your own business. So tell us more about your journey and how you got into where you are at now.
Kim: well it was kind of flog a long winding road with a lot of corners and turns. As you said am an internes and I got interested in integrative medicine so I did a fellowship at the university of Arizona. And that really changed the way I looked at medicine, it changed my paradigm.
And following that fellowship I really couldn’t see myself going back into traditional western medicine. So that point I really became interested in how do you provide integrative medicine services to more people and that led me into my interest in cooperate health. And so we designed a mindfulness in resiliency solution for corporations that we call the Aikens approach. Then developed that research which is diochemical and now are delivering that to basically corporations and hospitals.
Dave: well let me stop you right there. So mindfulness, to me that sounds kind of wowow, if you will and is something that… do you listen to horn in on, so what the heck is that? Explain that to me.
Kim: Yes that’s a really good question. Well, you know if you are interested just take a look at Time Magazine from February 2015, because the whole front page is about mindfulness, the whole magazine is about mindfulness. So it`s really made its way onto the mainstream.
Is about being in the present moment, in the right here right now, not often what happened this morning? What you cook for dinner? Can you or not worry about your kids. It`s really paying attention to what you are doing right here and right now.
You know we are really mostly living our lives on auto pilot we are always chattering to ourselves. Our [?] are always going, we really have no idea of what we are saying to ourselves. And mindfulness is more about becoming aware of that tendency but also about enjoying the present moment and the pow in the present moment. So that’s a pretty a simple explanation. Very well researched though, very well researched. A lot of areas from business, to medicine, to sports etc. So powerful stuff.
Dave: interesting. well you are a physician, you’ve been through this journey, and what are the top two things that you are seeing physicians struggle with right now?
Kim: I think definitely burn out is huge. Exhaustion goes along with that. And then you know what you really see a lot is actually fear. I have been a mentor and an anchor [?] conference is put on every year by an organization called Seek.
And in that I speak individually to physicians, and a [?] of physicians that come to the conference. What really really has truck me is the feeling that; wow gush, I am stuck in this, I don’t know what to do but I know I can stand this but I don’t know what to do. So almost seems like people are kind of caught in [?] like they are going to get run over and they don’t know how to… where to go. So the fear is really huge that I see, people just not knowing where to turn.
Dave: and so do you see that doing something that with this burnout and everything happening out there, I mean is there something that, this concept, the mindfulness being in our present moment helped overcome I mean help me relate it too in terms of how that might help the burnout side.
Kim: yh definitely well you know stress is often times about what we are telling ourselves [?] in the butt. Ok, is not necessary about the event itself is about the stories we are telling ourselves. So for example say you are a golfer and you go out on a gulf course and you are in a tournament and you go and you tell yourself I am going to mess this up, I am not playing well, on and on. You know.
Dave: not to talk about playing gulf because I suck.
Kim: and so what`s going to happen if you`re telling yourself that story, you know, you`re probably going to be stressed to the competition is going to be stressing and you`re probably not going to be performing very well. So mindfulness is really helpful because it starts to help us to listen to our [?] and the stories we are telling ourselves about stressful events and helps us to assess whether or not those stories we are telling ourselves are true or beneficial and then gives us techniques to work with those. So I can burn out for example, I had a person I was coaching and the story they were telling themselves is; this will never change, I am never going to get out of this, you know I can`t cope with this. Obvious underlined stories and we really had to listen to the mindset, be mindful of the mind shatter in order to say; well is that true? Are you really never going to get out of this? Is there really nothing you can do? And those underlined stories were not necessarily true so is uncovering those that the mindfulness keeps really helps with.
Dave: so inexplicably you brought out somebody that’s never going to get out of this. What kind of thing was that? Was that a financial challenge? Was that because of debt or something or was it because that they felt they had to make a certain amount of money due to their spending? Or what was behind that?
Kim: well I think that that`s part of it. I`ve seen a couple of different kinds of things. Particularly these physicians who tend to be older, you know they have accumulated a lot of things right. They are worrying about their retirement, they don’t really know what to do so certainly I think the financial piece particularly for older physicians as I have seen is definitely an underlined story that they tell themselves that I can`t make a move because of finances. That’s not necessarily true. I mean that has not necessarily been analyzed so that underlined story they are telling themselves then mindfulness can help uncover that. And then they can go to a financial planner, that’s what you do right? You know to determine that’s right or not. On the other hand other story that they can tell themselves is; there is nothing else I can do, am not trained for anything else. You know I don’t know where to turn and that might be the other underlined fear story. There is a lot of fear that’s going on. The mayor may not be grounded that needs to uncovered. So mindfulness piece can also though really help you to give you technique for actually when you are under stressful situations, when you are working with burnout to actually have better coping skills and resiliency in terms of bouncing back in tough times.
Dave: so can you give me an example? What is something in order to practice this mindfulness that someone will do in order to overcome that fear?
Kim: well like I said first you have to understand what is the underlined fear. What kind of mindset, what kind of thought presses us underlining the fear. And then someone can say hey is this true or not? You know is this helpful to me or not? And then we beat that mindshada once it`s kind of [?] understood. But the really interesting things is as I said, when you are working with fear, and I really do think a lot of burnout that recent people can`t afford is the fear factor. Is as simply recognizing the motion, the underlining motion is fear. You know I will tell you a story about myself when I was making this move into starting my own company. Frankly I was scared, I mean really scared and it was understanding that emotion, I didn’t recognize it at first. It was definitely affecting what I was doing. But I didn’t recognize it. And when I finally recognized it through some of the mindfulness work so I had a better grasp that I was being able to recognize my emotions. When I was able to finally say hey I am afraid. Well am afraid that’s ok let`s move forward anyway. You know, that also works and it helps.
Dave: so can you give me examples of where physicians have overcome burnout? And what was that like you know as they went through this kind of mindfulness technique.
Kim: Yeah, you know I mean is not just the mindfulness that’s not really big piece that can improve coping skills that, and lead to awareness in many many ways and in fact it can really be helpful. But coaching I think is also another way that can really help physicians kind of get past this blockade.
So I use those both of those things together. Actual mindfulness training for physicians in terms of pulling the resiliency, helping them with quick burnout and also coaching to determine where do I want to go? what do I want to do. So I will give you some examples, some people I have worked with. There was for example a gastroenterologist and she had a research career and you know she had burned out. And by that I mean there is some [?] to burnout, emotional exhaustion, real loss of life satisfaction, loss of work like balance, loss of meaning and purpose and she really lost interest, meaning and purpose. She was exhausted.
So we really worked a lot through coaching and uncovering what she wanted to do. And that could be a long term process involving life and career coaching and so she ended up staying in research to going back to business school. And then she left a research position in the end and started a neurology plus sleep center and actually here and interestingly now she is actually doing one in Dubai.
So she actually went and built a sleep center in Dubai where there aren’t any sleep centers. And she is also starting a wellness center in the United States. So you can really do some interesting stuff. Another person that I coached was cardiologist and he was super burnout as many cardiologist however he really didn’t want to get out of medicine so he wanted to stay in medicine and we worked quite a bit and skin was his passion. I mean I think you really have to take a look at where are your passion you know and what are you doing with those, especially if you want to stay in medicine itself you know you need to find ways to kind of rejuvenate yourself to get rid of that emotional exhaustion, to find meaning and purpose again and skin was the thing.
And he actually said I want to take three months off a year and he now goes out west and skee for two months a year and still has a full time cardiology practice. I mean yeah I took a pay cut but you know he`s much happier and the burnout is much more manageable now. So you can make decisions to leave medicine but you can also make decisions to find ways to stay in medicine but that takes some real exploration and digging deep and finding out where are your values? Where are your passions, you know? And what kind of strategies can you use to overcome the burnout and get stronger.
Dave: well I have to stay you have to have trying and have a vision with a map of where you want to go. It sounds like that’s where you are coming from of the first thing you want to do is to understand where you want to go and perhaps there is just people out there that aren’t sure of that. And what you are saying is really think about what your passions are, am I capturing that right?
Kim: absolutely. And your values. You know a lot of times we have burnout and stress in careers is because your values, what you value is not matching what`s in the workplace. And I think we have to understand whether our values… you know do we value flexibility? Do we value recreational timing, do we value money? Do we value a creative work environment? What are those values and starting to understand those and see where the mismatch is within your career and within your workplace and then finding ways to rectify those if you can. And if you can`t then finding a way to move forward and then maybe move out. As well as finding the passions in the things that will rejuvinate you. A lot of physicians really have trouble with work-life balance. So finding the time to, like that cardiologist did, to take two or three months and go to scheme so he can do a better job when he is a physician.
Dave: do you find that most workplaces are amendable to those kind of changes. I mean if I am an employer I want my employees around and I want them around at least three quarters of the time. Do you have this conflicts? Does that come up? Tell us about those kind of challenges.
Kim: yes I think that’s definitely a challenge. I think it depends you know this cardiologist had been in his position for quite some time he was valued and so you know they just accepted that. But you know, of course employers are going to say hey you need a career cut we need to give you a pay cut.
And that was ok with him. In another instance there is a woman I coached too, an orthopedic surgeon and she was feeling [?] and not happy in her work place so she started to take trips all over the place, three to two weeks at a time and she shared with me, yeah there are some more orthopedic surgeons that get to make practice that aren’t really happy about that.
You know but it worked for her and she does it and she maintains her work-life balance. So I think we can do much more with this than the stories in our hearts and that’s why I think is really important to understand the story in your head of telling us what we can do. But there are some challenges certainly but not interminable
Dave: ok. Very good very good. Well you know we are talking about coaching people and one of the big trance with burnout that I have seen a lot is; there is folks like yourself that are coaching physicians on burnout and coaching the crib so obviously a little bit prejudice here. But let`s just be real for a second, how can someone know a good coach and a bad coach?
Kim: yes that’s a super question. Well first of all I think if you are a physician and you are looking at getting coaching or being coached by someone I think you should really take a look at our training. Coaching is definitely a skill set because what coaching is, is a true partnership between the coach and the client where they are on equal footing. So the coach is kind of the facilitator of the client`s goal and the clients kind of internal thinking and internal strategizing.
And that takes real skill to be able to partner in that way with clients. To be able to ask the kind of powerful questions that are going to pull the answers that are already into the decision of the client out. And so that takes training so I think the first thing if someone is looking for coaching is we need to look at what the training is of the person who says they are a coach because a lot of people says they are coaching but they don’t have any of those training.
Dave: what is that training? Help us understand what kind of training are you talking about?
Kim: so international coach federation is deep premier coaching society basically in the United States and there
are programs that are accredited by the international coach federation or the ICF so you want someone who has really gone through that kind of program. I think that some coaches are hugely skilled but they have been doing this for twenty, thirty years so IF you can find those that have been doing it for twenty to thirty years, you know and as much as go through the ICF most likely you are going to have someone who is really topnotch. But those people are a little bit hard to come by, I mean you know like the top medicine doctor right. You know the tenure professor. So there are different levels within the ICF but certainly you want someone who has gone through a coaching program that is accredited by ICF.
Dave: Ok. Interesting. And why do you think that’s so important, just because of the techniques that you are mentioning, or what separates them out versus someone that is doing it without having those credentials?
Kim: yeah. Coaching is a process and is actually very different from anything that you know most people or doctors actually do. So when you are a coach and you are working with a client, you are not the authority. You know that’s not like the normal doctor-patient relationship where the doctor is the authority and the patient listens to the doctor and does hopefully maybe what the doctor says. You are in a true partnership and you are actually working with the coach to find answers together. So you are not acting as a consultant. So that’s a key cracks of that and that takes you know as I have done the coaching education program, I have been super super impressed with the skills that goes into that. It`s pre-profound and you can tell like beginner coaches from the teachers who are super proficient at this they are just 90 day different. So the training is really important you just don’t learn that about that relationship, about really being able to listen to someone in a way that’s really helpful to them, you know, just intuitively. I mean some people may be intuitively better than others but there is still a training process just like being a doctor as a training process.
Dave: I guess what I point out I can of [?] making that [?] in my own situation the financial advisors out there. Someone can be brand new and you may not necessarily know it but when you look at a couple of critical credentials like CFA, like I have a CFP or some other CPA, you know they have a degree of training. Does that mean, just because they have the credentials they are awesome or not necessarily but at least they have been through some rigor and training. That the new jobler off the street has.
Kim: that’s right. Exactly, exactly. And so there are a lot of people that’s kind of like anything you can say you are coaching people, anyone can say that but you don’t necessarily have that credential. So all that training so I mean I just will say better beware on that regard. There is some really good coaches out there but you know still you just have to check the credentials.
Dave: got it, got it. Well I personally believe successful people learn from their mistakes but super successful people learn from others` mistakes so what are two or three lessons that you would like to pass on other physicians today.
Kim: I guess the first one that comes the top of my head is feel the fear and do it anyway. This is a scary process if you are thinking of making change, change is never easy. Whether is change within your workplace or change going to a new career starting a new business you know is never easy. And so again fear can stop us and I will just say walk through that. You know, feal the fear and just do it anyway. That’s you know I think the biggest recommendation I can give.
Dave: feel the fear and do it anyway. I got it.
Kim: I think the other thing is don’t… we are trained as doctors, we are super goals oriented, you do x y and z that that will get you to xy and z that will get you to xy and z, right? … you know very goaler to very linear. And I think that other recommendation that I would say is to bran, become more open, be willing to explore. Be willing to take twists or turns because who knows where a twist or turn may take you. It may not be so linear arout and that again may be frightening to doctors. But I will be open to that anyway. So the other recommendation will be just open to new experiences and twist and turns in your path. Um let`s see, other…
Dave: no that’s good, that’s good.
Kim: professional hub. Professional hub for being my other piece of advice.
Dave: ok very good. One other big thing that I like to emphasize is, beside any of the old materials, what are some good resources regarding strengthening our inner self as well as our career that you would recommend to residents or fellows or practicing physicians. Maybe a couple of good books or videos or DVDs or whatever they could check out.
Kim: yeah. One thing I will recommend is, you know, if you are thinking about land [?] careers the good resource is that seek, land [?] for career conference just last weekend in Chicago so there is not going to be another one for another year but that is a really good conference to kind of open your eyes to what is out there. It doesn’t necessarily tell you how to get there but it just gives you a lot of ideas as to what land [?] center out there. I would say take a mindfulness course or work with someone who has had mindfulness training. A couple of books I might suggest is Resilience; that’s a good book on resiliency by Stephen Selfwick. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that book, the spy down baker. Another one.
Kim: that one is a really good one he`s a [?] launch. And then another good book that I think really is a kind of eye opener for doctors is The Four Hour Work Week. Have you ever heard of that one?
Dave: confess right?
Kim: yeah and that can just be a kind of open your mind to possibilities. Get you thinking outside the box kind of book.
Kim: and is kind of interesting. So that’s just some books.
Kim: videos? I don’t really know. I think is a tough thing to do, on your own you are going to be making changes either in a personal life, a professional life if you want to stay, if you really feel like you are burned out you want to stay in medicine. You are surely going to be making changes if you decide to go a kind of a different rout so I will definitely say working with somebody to help you. You know kind of walk that path is important because is, as I said is not an easy road and it can be quiet sacutist.
Dave: well then, sometimes, and I find this a little out of clients. Sometimes you just need to talk it out for someone to ask the tough questions. Not that you necessarily couldn’t figure it out on your own but I find it often speeds up the process or you get a new perspective on things that you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten.
Kim: absolutely. Yup. Totally.
Dave: well there is so much that we just don’t have time to cover and I will just would love to have you to just think of any closing thoughts that you would like to leave with our audience today.
Kim: any closing thoughts. You know I think the closing thought is, I think that there are many solutions. I think we get into this place where we feel burned out and we kind of go and we get depressed, we get anxious and that certainly is associated with burnout. But there are solutions. There really are solutions. You know is fixable in some way. And the answers are inside of us we just need to find them. So I just would say, you know keep some optimism, be opened, be willing to explore new things, to explore your values, to explore you passion and be patient with the process because it will be a process. So there we go.
Dave: awesome. And that was great. Great great suggestions. And thank you so much for being with us. If people have more questions how can they find you and how can they get in contact with you.
Kim: well I have two websites and one website is; aikensapproach.com, and that’s my corporate mindfulness website. And then I have pursuithealth.com so they can take a look at either of those or they can give me an email at email@example.com and that`s Aikens. That’s how you spell my last name so…
Dave: wonderful. Well thank you again so much. And if you are a physician or you are someone out there servicing physicians and you want to tell your story grappling with other issues like this one. You want to get on the show box here for a few minutes I will like to share it too in the next formula for freedom formula for physicians podcast. Make sure to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the website doctorfreedompodcast.com. for the freedom formula for physicians podcast this is Dave Denniston thank you very much for joining us and make sure to subscribe and check in again soon have a good one.