I have been a “doctorpreneur” for the past decade. I’ve done everything from locums work to real estate to coaching women physicians and residents to advising companies and venture capital firms, and the list goes on. If it’s inspiring to me, I dive in. What I’ve found out from all of my business ventures is that once I decided to make medicine something I did because I loved it, and not my primary source of income, I became a better physician.
I love being a physician. It’s a humbling experience to be with someone in their most vulnerable moments and offer comfort, a plan, and compassion. I also realized very early on that moral injury, or what some call burnout, is all too real. I felt it coming on during my last months in residency, and I wanted to make sure my heart was always in medicine and that my patients always got me at 100 percent. A lot of physicians can do that, day in and day out, and I know that a lot of physicians are just beyond tired.
I started coaching women physicians on negotiating their contracts and thinking outside of the box of medicine, mainly because I am a women physician and because of the gender wage gap in every subspecialty. Coaching has become even more of a passion since the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit New York City, my hometown, I stepped away from my businesses and jumped back into the system. I ended up opening and closing an ICU at the peak of the pandemic in a very hard-hit area in NYC. I lost five colleagues during that time. I saw how burned out my full-time colleagues were, and I realized then how it was even more important to teach physicians how to step out of the system and think outside the box.
I remember having a conversation with one of my colleagues before she ended up dying from COVID. She said, I wish I could do what you do Geeta, you practice medicine with so much energy. I wish it felt like a calling the way it used to: That hit me hard. Everyone can practice medicine like it’s a calling; we all go into it for that reason. The problem is that the business of medicine has taken its toll. For me, thankfully, medicine fills my bucket as a calling, and once I start feeling moral injury settling in, I take a few weeks away and concentrate more on my other businesses. When I feel inspired again to practice, I jump back in. I want every physician to know that this is an option for you too.
Geeta Arora is an internal medicine physician and can be reached at Resident Physicians Unleashed!
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