Chiropractor and suicide are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence. Sadly I recently learned of another DC who took his own life . May God bring some peace to the family.
This was the second suicide of a chiropractor that I’ve heard about this year. I knew both these doctors but had not had any contact with them for several years. Both these docs were known to be excellent clinicians, but those who knew them more closely and recently told me that part of their difficulty was having a struggling practice. A sad ending.
I wish now that I would have kept in touch, assisted them, consoled them, or provided whatever help I could to prevent the tragedy. I bet you wish you could have helped also.
The next best thing I can do is share with you, what I would have told them. So here are a few important thoughts that all DCs need to keep in mind as we navigate our way through the jungle of being a chiropractor.
1) It’s all a bunch of crap! LOL! I bet you didn’t expect that. It’s a line my dad use to say, not to be taken literally, but meaning that no problem is so serious that you have to end your life over it. BJ Palmer’s most famous epitaph is “Don’t take yourself too damn seriously!” – (he hung that sign over the Men’s urinal!). Sure, you’ve dedicated your life to chiropractic, perhaps you’re in deep debt because of it, and no doubt people are looking up to you and depending on you to be a success; but success is not all about money, big house, fancy cars etc. No, success means you and I keep going through the thick and thin of it all, through the lean times, through the lawsuits, through the insurance payment reductions, the managed care, the never ending loads of paperwork, regulations, staff turnovers, and occasional hostile patients. We keep on keeping on no matter what. That’s what wins wars, marathons, and contests. It’s what holds marriages together, nations, and religions that have survived for centuries. It’s what has kept the entire profession of chiropractic going for over a century. We need each and every DC to keep on keeping on! You are part of the family and families stick together. It’s a “no fail” situation. The public needs you, period!
2) This is the noblest of professions. It truly is. I place it above being a brain surgeon, rocket scientist, pastor, or politician. I’m not kidding. This principle that real health comes from within as a gift from God is profound and unique. Next to the Jesus story, this chiropractic story is the best I know of on the planet. It’s no surprise that most of the population doesn’t get it, yet. It’s the ‘yet” that excites me and should do the same for you. The potential help that chiropractic can provide the world’s population is stunning. The opportunities for us are mind-boggling. So be grateful that God has blessed you and me with this chiropractic principle, even with all the difficulties that can come with it. You’ve been called; do you realize that? Yep! And it’s grand.
3) Embrace the frustration. We all feel it. Consider it another blessing – a call to action. I know it’s frustrating when some patients don’t show up, don’t pay, just want their back pain relieved, and then call you on a Sunday evening for an emergency. When you are dealing with people, this activity is expected from a few of them. When you accept people as they are then all or most of the frustration vanishes. Keep tweaking your procedures and policies, keeping them customer friendly, to minimize these frustrations. All professions face this same challenge.
4) Speak up. By this I mean 2 things. First, freely share your gift of enlightenment about real health with your community, what it is, how to get it and how to keep it. You will likely feel enormous relief by sharing that gift. For most of us, it’s our calling to be messengers. Keep in mind that it often falls on deaf ears. All we can really do is plant the seeds. But communicating the message brings amazing fulfillment. Secondly, tell your trusted friends, colleagues and family of your difficulties and frustrations. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek professional assistance. I did many times. My favorite practice management coaching service is PM&A. The solutions will likely come from those who have faced the same challenges.
5) Make changes. The world has been in continual change since its creation. You and I have to change along with it. This includes not only updating your office, your staff, your equipment, and your procedures; it also and most importantly means updating “you”. Take an attitude of continual learning for a lifetime. Take some classes in the evenings, read books, watch training videos, or get a new certification. Continually, tweak you consultations, examination, xray analysis, and adjusting skills.
6) Get more spiritual. It’s the glue that holds all your being together. The Bible is the first place I turn when the world seems to bearing down on me. You’’ll find a splendid congruency between chiropractic principles and Christianity. We need a strong spiritual foundation to deal with all that “crap” my dad labeled in #1 above. My favorite class to teach is called Bible Based Health care. Read and ponder on the magnificence of Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
7) Create problems. This sounds odd but what I mean is that there will always be some level of difficulties so you might as well get in control and create some. I always sought to keep my practice growing, partly because I felt an obligation, but also because I wanted that control. I cherished and aimed for problems like getting so busy that we run out of xray film and headrest paper. I strived to market my classes such that we ran out of chairs for the attendees. I got so active in my community that a few locals complained that no matter where they looked they saw either me or my name. LOL! These are the problems you and I need to have.
8) Seek out giants and learn from them. “Giant” is a label I place on DCs who are truly successful. True giants are rare, usually humble, and generally low key so you have to search hard to identify them. When you find them, ask them if you can observe them at work for at least a short time. True giants will welcome you. I did this consistently throughout my 25 years of practice, identifying and visiting about 2 dozen giants. I learned more by doing this than from any seminars. This is the most effective way a DC can improve him/herself. I explain more details about this, and reveal the giants I learned from in the chapter called “Following Giants” in new ebook called Reclaim the Joy of Practice: An Advanced Guide for Advancing Doctors. You can order it securely by clicking HERE.
9) Be congruent. Most suicide cases include depression. Don’t hesitate to seek out a mental health professional if necessary. But in addition, ask yourself “Am I living congruently with the title of chiropractor?” Check your lifestyle basics. Are you getting adjusted regularly and consistently, eating wholesome foods, exercising daily, socializing frequently, and getting adequate sleep. These habits are essential for whole health. It’s never too late to get back on the right track.
10) Make it fun. Doctoring is serious business but can and should be fun. I have a friend who plays Christmas music in his office on the 25th of every month, even in summer! Then he walks around grinning as all the patients ask “What the heck…?” Another friend wears a tie everyday and they all have cartoon characters on them! If you want to avoid going crazy then act a little crazy in a fun way.
We need every chiropractor we’ve got. Let’s keep an eye on each other. If you know a struggling DC please pass this article on to them. Call a colleague you haven’t connected with for awhile and ask “How’s it going over there?”
In the famous words of George Washington “If we don’t hang together, we’ll each hang separately!”
Be sure and get my free reports to help grow your practice available on the right side of this website.
Doctors should be and need to be happy. Patients deserve nothing less.
I just returned from a 10 day trip of hiking, biking, and eating my way thru Rome, Italy and Tuscany. Now my feet ache but my tummy is happy! LOL.
Dr Tom Potisk in front of Castle Santi Angelo in Rome Italy
I saw and experienced lots of really cool things like The Vatican, The Pantheon, The Roman Forum, The Roman Catacombs, Trevi Fountain, The Coliseum and spent a few days at an authentic ancient Tuscan farm called Agriturismo Cerreto (great place) near the ancient hill top towns of Pienza and Montelpulciano. I even hiked to a steaming natural hot spring in the Tuscany mountains called Terme San Fellipo and soaked in it – ahhhhhh!!!!
Dr Tom Potisk in natural hot spring in mountains of Tuscany, Italy
Don’t worry, I always wear my swim suit! LOL.
My many trips like this, which are really adventure vacations, are some of the reasons my friends call me The Vacation Expert. What they mean by this is not about my ability to go to cool places, they mean I’m an expert at getting away frequently and efficiently so it does not harm my practice. These “off the beaten path” trips are another reason I’m known as the “down to earth” doctor.
I’ve observed, from my experiences in helping doctors, and from my own 25 years of running a busy practice, that most doctors need more rest. They need to get better at disconnecting from the demands of their responsibilities both short term and long term. Are you feeling better already? LOL.
Just how long should doctors disconnect? It varies among individuals but on average, doctors need to disconnect short term for a minimum of 30 minutes a day by meditating, praying, or just vegging out in a quiet undisturbed place. And the long term? Doctors need to disconnect long enough to feel the desire to return to their normal duties. This may be several days at a time, several times per yea,r or for those close to burnout it may be several weeks or even months. On average, I needed and took 6-10 weeks off per year.
“But my practice and my patients?” you’ll probably ask. Well I’m happy to report that there is a 5 step procedure I came up with that allows a doctor to take lots of time off with little or no negative impact to their practice. This is called Becoming a Vacation Expert and you can read about it in my book called Reclaim the Joy of Practice – An Advanced Guide for Advancing Doctors. Oh yeah, and there is a lot of other great stuff in there too, more than 50 others in fact, all designed to make a doctor more joyful.
You see, the ultimate goal is better service to patients, and doctors who are well rested can give better service. The patients want their doctors to be joy-filled.
So doc, wake up to the message in front of you carried by every patient – that life is awfully short and precious. It’s okay to take optimum care of yourself by getting adequate rest, so you can then take optimum care of your patients.
Doctorswho are poor or broke? It just doesn’t seem possible!
But I heard the same story again just recently. I presented my signature program called Reclaim the Joy of Practice as a speaker at a PM&Achiropractor‘s conference in Brookfield, Wisconsin. The presentation was well received with doctors telling me how much they enjoyed my information, stories, and real life examples of how a doctor can become a better doctor.
Dr Tom Potisk speaking at doctor's conference
Then one doc approached me afterward and asked “Can you please meet with my friend? He has been practicing for 34 years and wants to cut back and retire but is broke.” Yikes!!!! After 34 years? How can this happen? And I know this broke doctor; he’s had a successful practice all the way through! Doctors need to learn how to manage money.
Here is a related article from naturalnews.com on January 11, 2012:
“Physicians whose private practices are barely staying afloat in the current economy look forward with dread to the changes in the federal budget which could cut Medicare physicians pay by 27.4%. Even top-rated doctors, some of whom have sacrificed a personal salary in order to pay their staff members and keep their practices open, are contemplating personal bankruptcy and/or leaving medicine.
Observing that a wave of physician bankruptcies could leave many communities “without a vital health resource,” the CNN article also briefly touches on at least one of the factors which have contributed to this state of affairs. “In oncology, doctors were allowed to profit from drug sales. So doctors would buy expensive cancer drugs at bulk prices from drug makers and then sell them at much higher prices to their patients.” One physician quoted in the article stated: “I grew up in that system. I was spending $1.5 million a month on buying treatment drugs.” Revised Medicare guidelines mean that physicians are now reimbursed for less than half the cost of those cancer drugs.”
#1) Listen, having a good income does not translate into automatic financial security, they are two completely different things. You’ve heard the expression “It’s not the size of it, it’s what you do with it that really matters.” LOL.
#2) It’s so easy to fall into the trap of overspending, living beyond your means, and not realizing that most investments, especially those that are commonly promoted, are nothing short of gambling. Most gamblers end up losers!
So what’s a person to do? Where can one place their money for a decent return and safety?
The truth is that there is no completely fail safe place. No not even under or in your mattress. LOL
But the experts say that “The stock market has consistently returned higher yields than any other investment.” Bull !!!!!!
This particular broke doctor was invested in the stock market, followed all the usual advice about asset allocation and having a diversified portfolio. For the most part, all the usual advice is all bull.
One enlightened investor I heard said that most professional investment managers are nothing short of thieves, that most will recommend only what pays them the highest commission.
#3) What solution do I offer? Invest like a kindergartner. LOL. I’m not kidding! Here is an excerpt from my book Reclaim the Joy of Practice - An Advanced Guide For Advancing Doctors:
Invest Like a Kindergartner
Financial gain is of course not the main goal and purpose of being a doctor. But, your years of good doctoring will likely reward you financially. Surprisingly, a significant number of successful doctors end up with little or no financial reward at the end of their careers. The most common reason for this is risky investing.
Understand that there is a significant difference between “investment returns” and “investor returns”. An investment return is the theoretical expectation of gain. Investor return is the actual gain, and it’s not mentioned much because it’s dismal. Most investors make their decisions based on emotion and make irrational choices as a result, dramatically lowering their return. The only emotions that should play any part in your investing is stability, security, and peace of mind. Be very careful of over exuberant investment counselors, brokers and advisers that don’t share this understanding, they can lead you astray.
I see and hear all the same financial management information in the media you do, and I stay away from most if not all of it. Claims like “the stock markets have consistently out performed all other investments” and “real estate has always gone up and always will” are traps. The one financial principle that I’ve always followed is the same one we all learned in kindergarten – Aesops fable aka The Tortoise and the Hair. The lesson of that story is this – slow and steady wins the race. I take it a step further to – slow, steady and insured wins the race. With that principle in mind, there is no need to risk or gamble your money in any way. Sure, own a nice home, car, and even some toys, but live below your means, pay off the debts for these ASAP, and then invest the remainder of your money in a secure, insured way like US Treasury bonds or tax free municipal bonds. These are the most secure place to invest your money. Don’t be discouraged that they pay less interest than the other hyped investments you’ll hear about, it’s the security, tax free, and consistent return that makes all the difference.
You won’t hear municipal bonds recommended much because they don’t pay the brokers near as much commission as other investments. Start buying a few tax free municipal bonds each year throughout your career and you’ll enjoy a wonderful secure tax free income for your retirement. If you’re going to gamble on anything, gamble on this sure bet – taxes are going to go up, so invest tax free. Near the end of Albert Einstein’s life he was asked what was the most amazing thing he has observed in his life? “Compound interest”, he answered. Having secure, tax free, compounding interest will give you peace of mind to further focus on being a partner in your patient’s health, rendering better service, and then having more joy as a doctor.
Here’s one more secret about investing, probably even more important than what I’ve just shared with you: the best investment you can make is in yourself. This means that money spent on improving ones self, whether it be paying for a communication course, buying motivational/educational books and tapes, getting chiropractic treatment, having a custom designed nutrition program, and even hiring the bestpractice management coach is money well spent. The return on investment for making you and what you do better is enormous and near guaranteed. In endeavors of personal betterment, you almost can’t go wrong.
Ok docs? Got it now? Can you do that? It’s never too late to start.
Doctors get professional burnout frequently. They are under more stress and carry more responsibility than ever before. Left uncontrolled, the consequences build logarithmically, causing health problems and then even death, perhaps through suicide, in some instances.
Watch kids to learn about joy
Being a health care provider can and should be very rewarding. But the rewards are deceiving. If one’s focus is on money and other materialism, long term joy will always be lacking. This concept can be applied to almost anything in life, whether you’re talking about marriage, career, business, and even raising children. It comes down to how you define success.
But the focus of this article is on doctors, a vital component of society’s well being. We need you docs!
Here is a list of potential signs of burnout:
Can’t wait to get done seeing patients/ watching the clock.
Difficulty fully listening to patients, interrupting them.
Contemplating switching careers.
Viewing patients as problems instead of people with problems.
No sense of humor.
Lack of exercise, tired frequently, low energy
Poor eating habits, craving carbohydrates
This is a partial list of general early indicators. Certainly there can be numerous reasons for any of these problems. But I urge doctors to take action because burnout is dangerous. And besides, a doctor can’t provide optimum care to patients with any of those symptoms. Taking time off is part of the solution, but it’s difficult for doctors because of the demands of patients. (If you have not already done so, register on the sidebar of this website and receive my free report: How to take and enjoy more vacations from practice) .
I wrote an excellent protocol for relaxation, both mentally and physically, that will also help you. You can find it in my book Whole Health Healing.
Here is an excerpt from an article in American Association of Family Physicians, June 1999
“From the first day of medical school onward, you’ve most likely felt behind. Practicing medicine can be like racing through life on a treadmill that’s always picking up speed. Exhausted, many physicians begin to question whether they can keep up the pace. But most feel forced to continue on the treadmill, regardless of the personal toll, because of commitments they’ve made. First they work to pay off medical school loans. Then they work so they can afford the expensive lifestyle they’ve created — sometimes to appease family members for their constant absences. If they don’t want their children to start professional life with the burden of debt, they may keep up a fast pace to help pay for college or professional school.”
A tremendous number of physicians have compassion fatigue; that is, they give to patients to the point where it hurts too much to give any more. Some have alienated their families.”
So that’s the prime reason I wrote the book Reclaim the Joy of Practice – An Advanced Guide for Advancing Doctors. Joy is the opposite of burnout. The book contains 130 pages of things a doctor needs to do for long term joy as a doctor.
I was blessed with tremendous success in my practice for over 25 years. And joy was a big part of that. We owe it to our patients to pursue joy.
Doctor, how do you define success and do you have joy?