“Quitting your job isn’t being disloyal to your boss. Sometimes it’s the only way to stay loyal to yourself. If work threatens your well-being, leaving is an act of self-preservation. If work violates your values, quitting is an expression of integrity.” – WorkLife with Adam Grant
I wish I would've understood these words sooner. I have always seen myself as extremely loyal to my relationships, both personal and professional. I have stayed at jobs despite blatant emotional abuse, sexual harassment, failure to pay my salary, overstepping of boundaries, and a complete lack of appreciation or value shown for me and what I bring to my position. As a resident physician, tolerance for abuse is not only expected, but respected, and this culture of “toxic resilience” in medicine continues long after residency. It wasn’t until after I understood that having self-worth and valuing my own health and well-being would contribute to the overall health and well-being of my patients that I was willing to set boundaries and start prioritizing myself.
And I am not the only physician who has behaved as a martyr in a toxic job for the benefit of others. A pre-pandemic physician happiness survey reported that overall physicians early in practice seemed happy with their lives and satisfied with their jobs, but that after only six years in practice — that number began to fall to near 50%.
Following the pandemic, even more physicians are questioning their desire to stay in medical practice, and for many this is due to unsupportive and toxic working conditions and poor leadership within hospital systems. And yet, even for myself in my personal experience, physicians are hesitant to resign, even from positions where they are underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated. Why?
Does this sound like your job?
The top five reasons people leave their jobs are related to leadership issues as well as inadequate compensation.
Surveys of physicians point to the fact that money is rarely a motivator for physicians in practice, with many accepting far less than their value if they are truly inspired by their work and have good relationships with their colleagues and patients, so lack of adequate compensation is not commonly a reason for physicians to leave their employment.
Leadership, however, can be incredibly problematic for physicians. The values of hospital systems and corporate medical practices tend to conflict with those of their physician employees. While physicians value relationships with patients and time spent cultivating those relationships, the healthcare delivery systems value revenue. This conflict of values directly contributes to many sources of physician stress, including:
- Reductions in clinician staffing and support for administrative activities
- Increased patient volume with decreased time available to spend per patient
- Depersonalized patient relationships
- Poor organizational support
This all culminates in physicians working under an incredible amount of stress. They are emotionally and physically exhausted and battling under an excessive workload with very little support.
Physicians are incredibly intelligent knowledge workers so their lack of action certainly cannot be attributed to lack of understanding. They can see the inadequacies and stressors within the system that they work in, but despite all that, they still feel incredibly loyal to their patients, if not to their clinical leadership. In fact, the number one thing that keeps physicians in practice is the joy they receive from helping patients and their families.
Based on my personal experience, the number one reason that physicians do not practice self-preservation in the workplace is because they are diligently working to preserve the lives and health of others, and their culture and upbringing has taught them to value these lives over their own. Other fears may be the cost of starting up their own practice, the complexity of running a practice and billing for services, and of being alone without a network of resources and/or specialists to support them and their patients.
A Better Way
What if you could have it all? You could have a practice you love, with patients you care about, a network of other independent physicians to collaborate with, and financial stability with the resources available to you as a member of ViTel Health.
At ViTel we believe in supporting physicians physically, emotionally, and professionally so that you can do what you do best — take care of patients. Our platform provides access to all the services you need to start your own independent virtual practice, a community of physicians to support and network with you, blockchain-based credentialing to improve the speed and accuracy of contracting and credentialing with insurance and hospital networks, and the technology you need to transform your life and the lives of patients.
If you are struggling with a toxic job right now, you are not alone! Please reach out to me personally if you need support and learn more about our physician memberships.
To find Dr. Busse on SoMeDocs, please click here.