A physician may encounter a personal challenge as they engage in their professional work and as they seek to establish a sense of balance with their personal life. Such a personal challenge may manifest itself in difficulties and delays in making an important decision about their medical practice that will have an impact on their personal life. And while a physician may be aware of many aspects of the challenge that they are facing there may also be processes operating outside of their conscious awareness that are influencing their thoughts and feelings and compromising their decision making process. For example:
A challenge of solo practice or group practice
A woman who had been in a solo family practice for over seven years was facing the challenge of deciding whether to continue working in her a solo practice or to join an existing group practice. She was feeling quite exhausted by the clinical and administrative demands of her solo practice and she was very concerned about the impact of her exhaustion on her husband and her two children. She was aware of many aspects of the challenge that she faced but she was very hesitant to make a decision. Our coaching conversation was focussed on her decision making process and in this context she realized that what had been holding her back was her sense of loyalty to her father who had been family physician in private practice until his death a few years earlier. When she recognized this previously unconscious aspect of her challenge she was then able to make a clear and valued decision to join a group practice - and she did.
A challenge of general practice or specialty training
A family physician, married and the father of two young children, struggled with the challenge of deciding whether to leave his current practice and to undertake specialty training in internal medicine. He was consciously fearful of disappointing his beloved wife even though he had her explicit approval to make whatever decision was right for him. In our coaching conversation he realized that what he feared most was the loss of his well-established relationships with other family physician colleagues and having to join a cohort of residents all of whom would be a decade younger them himself. After thinking through these interrelated issues he was able to engage in specialty training in a field of great interest to him.
A challenge of retirement
An older family physician was faced with the challenge of closing his practice. He was held back by his fear of the guilt he would feel about 'abandoning' his patients, some of whom had been in his care for decades. When he was able to link this fear to his own childhood experience of his birth mother having 'abandoned' him to adoption he could think more clearly about his retirement. His fears lessened and he then actively guided his long term patients to the care of respected younger colleagues. He was then able to retire with self-understanding and a sense of peace.
A challenge of perfectionism
A 40 year old physician had always been committed to providing the highest possible level of care for her patients. While away from her medical practice she was preoccupied with endless concerns about her patients and consequently she was so emotionally exhausted that she could not relax and enjoy her personal and family life. In our coaching conversation she was able to understand that in her preoccupation with concern about her patients that she was unconsciously attempting to avoid the painful inner experience of 'torturous' self-criticism. Following upon this insight she was able to effectively manage her 'inner critic'- whom she said seemed like her father - and to end her 'self-torture'. She then went on to experience greater ease in her medical practice and to enjoy a more relaxed and satisfying personal and family life.