Can we be better at helping physicians thrive? I think so. Physicians choose their profession for one main reason. They want to take care of patients. Many barriers prevent our doctors from focusing on caring for their patients. Are we committing malpractice by ignoring the needs of our valued physicians?

My county has experienced (at least) two known physician suicides in the last 3 months, and one death through apparent accidental overdose. Our local medical society has implemented a physician wellness program that allows 6 free counseling sessions in an effort to address the issue of physician burnout, depression, and suicide. For some reason the counseling sessions have no corresponding medical records. Florida Statutes (f.s.394.4615) require the creation of medical records when medical care is provided. I think doctors know this.

I applaud the Duval County Medical Society Foundation doing something for physicians in an attempt to combat a suicide rate that is five times the age adjusted rate. It is a start. It is better than nothing. But honestly, it is like putting a small bandaid on a arterial wound. Our physicians need and deserve better.

I am a Florida Licensed mental health counselor (MH4105) by education and training with extensive experience in intervening with suicidal individuals. In 2007 I began my training at an International Coach Federation accredited coaching program. In 2008 I left my hospital job, and my mental health practice to work full time as a credentialed executive coach focusing primarily on helping physicians, and healthcare leaders thrive.

It seems cruel to me to ignore the needs of today’s physicians, allowing the system to depersonalize and commoditise them, reduce their pay by as much as 40 percent, increase their work expectations, not provide tools they need, and then when they get depressed, offer them 6 free suicide prevention counseling sessions. We can and must do better.

I coach and consult with organizations and associations whose decision-makers get that their people are their most valuable resource. These organizations and associations are busy creating comprehensive solutions to invest in the success of their highly valued healers. Physicians are human. We can do much more to help them succeed, and thrive, thereby freeing them to reconnect with fulfilling their life missions of healing patients, creating healthy communities, and a better world. We can do better. We must do better.

Written by: Terry Hoffmann

Terry Hoffmann specializes in partnering with organizations to create, deliver, and enhance their coaching programs. She coaches physicians, executives, and teams to drive profitability, foster loyalty, enhance provider and staff engagement and satisfaction, and create high performance work cultures. Terry's educational background includes a Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching from the University of Texas at Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management, Master's degree in counseling psychology from the University of North Florida and a Bachelor's of Science in psychology from Colorado State University. She holds a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential through the International Coach Federation and a Board Certified Coach (BCC) through the Center for Credentialing and Education.