Reprinted below from Mississippi Medical News
Medical Entrepreneurs: How to Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
By: MARTIN WILLOUGHBY
Why did you become a physician?
This question gets to the heart of your life’s work. This same question could be asked of any occupation. In medicine, it’s particularly compelling because of the long road of training required to practice this profession. I’ve heard many physicians say they wouldn’t pursue this career path if they could do it again. They point to longer hours, less pay, burdensome regulations, liability, et cetera. Even though the compensation can be good, the stress is omnipresent. In addition to stress related to patient care, there’s also stress involved in operating a medical practice. The results of these stressors leave many physicians at the brink of burnout.
This potential for burnout is real. According to the American College of OB-GYN (ACOG), 67 percent of 1,200 physicians surveyed reported symptoms of burnout (ACOG 2006). A study published in the Western Journal of Medicine (2001) found a correlation between burnout and a perception of loss of control. The study concluded that lack of perceived control was the best predictor of burnout. Interestingly, in a survey by the journal Hippocrates, 73 percent of physicians cited “daily interaction with patients” as the most important or rewarding aspect of practicing medicine. T. Jock Murray, MD, director of the medical humanities program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, noted in the Annals of Internal Medicine: “Physicians still love their patients and love to see their patients. It’s the other things that are burning them out.”
Here’s the good news: By embracing an entrepreneurial mindset, physicians can better focus on their true passions in practicing medicine and in their lives. Entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges of busy physicians. They usually start their business with a skill and passion to pursue their dream. However, they usually get quickly bogged down in HR issues, accounting matters, and myriad realities of running a business. This entrepreneurial ceiling often dashes the dreams of many aspiring entrepreneurs. The answer lies in grabbing hold of two big ideas. First, physicians must implement sound “systems” in their business. This brings about the control that is often elusive and allows them to better focus on what they truly enjoy doing. Second, physicians need to adopt more of an artistic mindset. No, this doesn’t mean they need to bring a paintbrush to work. It does mean that they view their true work like an artist. Your medical practice is where you get to give yourself away each day in the creative art of medicine. This is a paradigm shifting way to view your life and work.
Mississippi Delta native Darden North, MD, is a great example of a physician who has embraced these big ideas. An OB-GYN with Jackson Healthcare for Women, PA, North has been practicing medicine since 1986. His 15-physician practice is innovative, with streamlined operations. This set-up has allowed North and his partners not only to provide personal, quality care for their patients, but it’s also allowed each of them to have a life, not just a job.
After his kids graduated from high school, and with the support of his wife, Sally, North pursued the dream of having a book published. He wrote his first medical thriller, House Call, in 2005. Points of Origin was published in 2006, and Fresh Frozen in 2008. Points of Origin was recognized in Southern Fiction in the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Awards, and House Call was a Mystery/Suspense Finalist in the 2008 New Generation Indie Book Awards. Fresh Frozen has received numerous national rewards as well. To date, North’s books have sold more than 17,000 copies. This is an impressive feat, particularly in light of the fact that most books on the shelf at your local bookstore will only usually sell 2,000 copies. North is now busy writing a fourth novel.
Anyone who has tried to write a book knows that it is no easy task. Amidst his busy schedule as a full-time practicing physician, North tries to work on his books a little bit each day. He acknowledges, “some days are better than others.” Of particular note for other medical entrepreneurs are North’s focus on operating an efficient practice with like-minded partners and his focus in pursuing his passions. According to North, “I’d encourage people considering pursuing a venture like book-writing to be focused and to understand the realities of the challenge.” Whether you’re starting a medical-related business or fine-tuning the operations of your medical practice, bringing the power of focus to bear will lead to powerful results.
As we journey down the path of exploring entrepreneurial thinking in this column space, it’s good to begin by understanding the pressures and stressors that physicians face, just like many other entrepreneurs. We’ll continue in future columns to review best practices for creating systems in medical practices and how to create opportunities to pursue your true passions. This will lead to greater job satisfaction and reduced burnout. North’s use of creative energy in both his practice and writing pursuits is a great example of what can be achieved with a desire to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.
Martin Willoughby is a business attorney and serial entrepreneur based in Jackson, Miss.
He may be reached by email mew.msbusinesslaw.com.
Darden North at 8:38 PM