Physicians need to step into their calling, even if it’s not directly in medicine

If you follow me for any time, you know that I’m about physicians owning your value, recognizing your strength, and balancing your life. I was doing that before it became popular to talk about.

While it has a catchy ring to it, what you don’t know is that it was not always that way for me. And no one knew.  It was one of the ways that I struggled in medicine.

There was a time in my career when I hadn’t owned my value, and it kept me from steeping into my calling and how I am meant to serve in medicine.

I struggled with how I might be perceived as I incorporated coaching with medicine. And while I facilitated parent support groups in the neonatal ICU, I knew that there was more for me to do.

You see, stepping into my calling meant that I had to be OK with being different from my peers.

It meant being comfortable with being known for something more than intubations and resuscitations and medicine.  And that was scary because my identity was tied to medicine. And I didn’t want to stand out.

As a NICU hospitalist, I worked shifts, usually night and weekends, so I was home with my children. I began to notice that as the springtime rolled around, and the residents and fellows were excited about their next level positions, I felt like I was being left behind.  Was this where I’d stay for the rest of my career? I felt restless and unsettled.  I’d start looking for the next opportunity, thinking and believing that was the answer.

I had this nudge for something more. I was doing something more, but I had not fully stepped into it, defined it, and owned it.  If you were in my trusted inner circle, you knew about the workshops I held.  You may have even enrolled in the coaching services I offered.  But that was behind the scenes.

I had created the story that when you line up coaching next to medicine, medicine trumps it every time.  Medicine is powerful work. It saves people’s lives. Every day there’s new research coming out to improve outcomes.

Remember, I hadn’t really defined coaching for myself, so I didn’t own a power statement that measured up to medicine.

It continued like that for years. I knew coaching was a viable vehicle to redefine the journey in medicine because I had proven it with my physician clients and for myself.

I wanted to help more doctors, but I had collected evidence to support my story.  That evidence was medicine was not ready for coaching.  Back then, we weren’t having the conversations that we’re having now about physician well-being. So instead of moving into my next level, I kept trying to fit into this model that I imagined was acceptable in medicine. And that meant denying part of myself.

You can only deny yourself for so long until that part of you shouts out for attention, demands to be seen, and desires change.

When you don’t step into your calling, it does impact your well-being.  It creates an internal struggle that manifests outward.

  • It contributes to the dissatisfaction you feel in the work you do.
  • It contributes to the lack of fulfillment.
  • And it is part of the reason you’re frustrated and stressed out.

When I didn’t operate from my life calling:

  • I looked outside myself for that next thing to fill the void when what was needed was to look within and embrace my gifts and talents.
  • I created a story that medicine is more important work than coaching, so I couldn’t give up such noble work. This story limited me from seeing what’s possible.
  • I gathered evidence to support my story and justify the limiting belief.

I hired my own coach and did my work to release the limiting beliefs that kept me second-guessing myself and running from one clinical position to the next.  Little by little, I made the shift to embrace coaching and medicine. The new power statement is that medicine and coaching are healing, life-changing, and life-affirming entities. Both are valuable.

When physicians own their value and take the next step into what they are meant to do in medicine, they now:

  • Make new powerful decisions from a deeper understanding of themselves.
  • Release the struggle, and the negative energy that they often do not even realize is radiating from them.
  • Stop making excuses and collecting evidence as to the reason why not. Now they are open to the opportunities that support their reason why and say yes to them.

Stephanie Wellington is a physician and can be reached at Nurturing MDs.

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