Hey Doc! What Does Independence Mean to You?

Happy 4th of July. Happy INDEPENDENCE Day!

Today is the day we celebrate the declaration of independence from British rule in 1776. It means a great deal to our country and our citizens.

Independence is also important in the development of the many roles we play throughout our lives - spouse, surgeon, parent, educator, colleague, leader - the list goes on.

What does independence mean to you?

How does that view change through the lens of each of your many roles?


Most of us have sought and declared our independence in several key ways throughout our life and career. We have moved out of our parents’ home. We have completed our training to take our first official “job.” We have navigated the difficulties of finding a new position with a better fit.

How much did your surgical training focus on your ability to gain independence? From my personal experience and from many of the surgeons that I talk to, independence was perhaps the primary focus.

As a young child I was required to be very independent, despite having several older siblings. Perhaps I have a very independent personality, and my path has likely been steered by good and bad experiences of my past. Some of us have declared our independence from the rules, restrictions, harm, or threats of another person, employer, or system. A declaration of independence defines who we are and what we stand for. It also defines who we are not.

Self-rule, self-determination and autonomy are synonyms of independence that ring true for many of us, and I am well aware of the benefits of being in control when it comes to wellness and burnout prevention. Freedom, liberty, and sovereignty also speak to each of us in different ways, depending upon our prior experiences in life and as surgeons, as well as from the view of our roles as citizens, surgeons or other roles.

Out of US independence came a new set of rules. Dependence, independence and interdependence are all part of our development process. We are dependent upon each other, as we cannot function without one another. We need to be part of a team, an organization, a community, a nation and a society. Our interdependence is the synergy that allows us to succeed, to grow, to care for our patients, and to solve complex problems.

Where are you in this repeating cycle in your life or career?

How are you seeking more independence, dependence, or interdependence? Are you seeking less independence, dependence, or interdependence?

Our nation celebrates its independence at the same time as it is struggling with opposing views and perspectives. If we want to succeed, grow, and begin to solve complex problems, we will need to seek interdependence. If you want to succeed, grow, and begin to solve your complex problems, you may need to apply strategies of independence, dependence, and interdependence.

While there are many strategies to learn, understand and implement your plan, I have found the following to be a great starting point:

  • Networking and Connections: Who do you know? Who are you hanging out with? Often our world has become too narrow and isolated. Why not reach out to make connections? What if these start as collaborative with an exploration for win-win activities? What if these were in the service of others, as healthy interdependence requires time to build trust.
  • Communicate with Mutual Understanding: Listen with the focus on truly understanding another person’s perspective. Avoid thinking about your rebuttal while the other is speaking. Ask clarifying questions and even open-ended questions such as how, what, and why with genuine curiosity. When appropriate, ask that you also be able to share your perspective, and allow the other to ask questions.
  • Create Synergy: The differing perspectives will lead to conflict, compromise, and the opportunity for creative solutions. Healthy empathy or compassion to others will build trust over time. Explore the shared goals which will be the foundation for your interdependence.

As you reflect on independence, dependence, and interdependence, what is your current plan of action for your life and practice? Now you can reach out to me to discuss it or … just go do it!


Creative Outlets as Burnout Prevention

Burnout is rampant in the medical community, and we’re dedicated to helping physicians find tactics for preventing and treating burnout. Devoting time to a creative outlet that you are passionate about can go a long way in this regard. In this article, we’re going to talk about how to use creative outlets as a burnout prevention tool.


Creative Outlets

We work long hours, and our jobs are demanding and high-stress. Interestingly, the hours, demands and stress are only part of the equation that contributes to burnout. The perceived loss of creativity is a big factor. Devoting time to a creative outlet or passion projects outside of work can have a marked effect on your overall wellbeing and performance at work.

Finding Your Creative Outlet

What’s your creative outlet? I’d encourage you to make sure that you carve out time to devote to this outlet on a regular basis. If you don’t have an established creative outlet, it’s never too late to start something new! The only rule is that you enjoy the creative process. Creativity can’t be forced. Creativity requires experimentation and patience. If your passion grows with the experiments, you are on a great track. If you find the opposite, move on to something else.

Whether you find joy in playing an instrument, writing, cooking, or something else – pursuing creative endeavors is a great way to keep burnout at bay and reinvigorate your passion for medicine.

Helping Surgeons Create Sustainable Practices

At SurgeonMasters, our ultimate goal is to help surgeons create practices that are sustainable and lifestyle-friendly. We are a collective of like-minded surgeons offering educational resources (articles, podcasts, webinars, and local meetups) to help physicians decrease burnout and boost resilience. Contact us at Team@SurgeonMasters.com today to learn more about our wellness and burnout prevention educational offerings.




The Cost of Physician Burnout

 Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_ivelinradkov'>ivelinradkov / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The issue of burnout in the medical profession is becoming more known by the day. But what many don’t realize is the monetary cost that physician burnout has on doctors and hospitals. In this article, we’re going to investigate some of the ways in which physician burnout is costing hospitals, doctors, and patients money.

Burnout Adds Up

It’s no secret that burnout is a serious issue among physicians at all levels – with up to 54% of US doctors reporting burnout. Some degree of burnout is healthy, as it balances our positive and negative energy. Much of the negative energy of burnout consists of the mental, emotional, and physical injury to the doctors who experience it. This also indirectly impacts the doctors’ patients. Many hospitals are now realizing the financial toll that burnout can take.

Burned out doctors are statistically more likely to make costly errors that may result in medical errors and even malpractice cases. While much less frequent, these costs can exceed millions of dollars. A burned out physician who moves to another job or stage of their career will experience some positive energy, but on the flip side the hospital receives the financial burden to recruit a replacement for the physician (which can cost up to $1 million). The expenditures related to the much more common inefficiencies of burned out physicians have not even been well studied, but estimates place the cost much higher than the average cost of high end physician wellness programs.

Some hospitals are starting to realize these financial effects, and are beginning to build burnout prevention initiatives as a response.

Addressing the Issue of Burnout 

So how do we effectively address the prevalence of burnout among physicians? It’s got to be a systematic change. We all need to do our best to educate physicians and hospital administrators on the symptoms, causes, and dangers of burnout. The next step is to provide tools that physicians can potentially use to build their resilience and recover from the negative energy. There is no one-size-fits all, and yet there is plenty of evidence of more effective strategies. If you can’t depend upon the system changes, physicians can definitely explore options to begin their journey to save dollars on burnout. System change is simply much more cost effective.

WellnessEdge - Powered by SurgeonMasters

If you’re struggling with burnout in your organization or in your own personal practice, SurgeonMasters can help. The WellnessEdge™, powered by SurgeonMasters, delivers strategies and techniques that surgeons can use to enact change and mitigate the issues that lead to burnout. Learn more online or contact Team@SurgeonMasters.com.




Burnout Prevention - What If?

What if I could tackle patients’ issues without feeling a drain on my energy?

What if I could restore the hope and passion for my career that I once had?

What if I could attack my day with a positive attitude rather than conflict and frustration?


A recent article published on morningconsult.com entitled “Slowing Physician Burnout: Programs Provide Solutions to Reduce Stress” discussed the ongoing problem of burnout among physicians and how to tackle this issue. According to numerous studies, physicians experience burnout more often than professionals in other US industries. There are many issues that affect caretakers differently, and as a result, physician burnout is a complex issue that has no easy remedy.

Picturing Physician Burnout - What If?

When people outside of the medical community think about physician burnout, they often imagine surgeons constantly dealing with life or death situations and the toll that must take. While that is a factor, most surgeons rank it much lower on the list of causative factors. Burnout is more often caused by mundane factors that consume our time and energy, like addressing regulatory burdens, becoming bogged down in clerical tasks, and conflicts with patients on issues over which we have no direct control.

Symptoms of burnout like being easily frustrated, difficulty concentrating, and disengagement are impacting even the most resilient doctors. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (a psychological inventory that uses 22 questions) characterizes burnout as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced sense of personal accomplishment.” In other words, burnout is a measure of the frequency of these feelings on three subscales. There should be no shame in burnout or any of these subscales, as they are simply self-perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. While these subscales do correlate with some performance data, such as patient outcomes, decreased quality of care, and increased chance of medical errors, they are not synonymous with poor performance.

While emotional exhaustion is one of the subscales measured, physical, mental, and emotional wellness are interrelated. For example, symptoms can become physical, and physical wellness can lead to fewer emotional symptoms. Improved sleep hygiene can decrease burnout; burnout can lead to poor sleep.

Burnout Prevention Programs - What If? 

Burnout is an issue we are finally beginning to reckon with in the medical community. We still have a long way to go, but some medical schools are now recognizing the importance for training and support. Some institutions, like Stanford, have even created entire centers dedicated to preventing physician burnout and promoting wellness.  

These are important steps, but many argue that they ignore the underlying systemic issues that lead physicians to burnout in the first place. While I acknowledge system-wide changes are needed to control the burnout epidemic, these changes will take time. We should continue to push for change, while providing physicians with effective prevention and management strategies in the meantime. I like to think of it as a “dimmer” switch to adjust the room lights, and not an on/off switch. Many things can dial the switch to increase our energy, to attack our day with more positive attitude, and to restore our passion and hope for our career.

What If? - You Had The WellnessEdge™

Often, when we talk to surgeons, residents, and fellows, we hear that IF they have a wellness program at their hospital, it’s often ‘All Show, No Go.’ That’s why SurgeonMasters created the WellnessEdge™. Our program provides actionable, repeatable strategies and techniques that surgeons can utilize to navigate the inevitable bout with burnout and mitigate its effects at the most critical times. Surgeons that engage in the program dial the “brighter” switch to shine light on their health and well-being.

Contact us today to discuss bringing the WellnessEdge™ to your institution or practice. Or you can learn more here.



Slowing Physician Burnout: Programs Provide Solutions To Reduce Stress

Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1996). Maslach burnout inventory manual. Palo Alto, Calif. (577 College Ave., Palo Alto 94306: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Steps to Control Social Media

This week’s guest blog on steps to control social media is from Jonathan Cabin, MD, a practicing plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. Social Media, with great advances and substantial pitfalls, is here to stay. Navigating this can seem like an overwhelming challenge. Jonathan lays out simple, actionable steps we can take to manage our participation in social media platforms to avoid the overwhelm and minimize the pitfalls! - Jeff Smith

social media.jpg

In a recent Doximity Op-(M)ed blogpost, I discussed the intentional and dangerously addictive properties of social media, and the potential pitfalls for, and responsibilities of, the physician who chooses to engage with these platforms. I alluded to a set of positive constraints that could be employed to leverage the positive benefits of social media, while minimizing detriment. Below are some accessible, low-effort and highly actionable ways to positively transform social media use:


One of the most powerful ways to control social media – or the addictive nature of smartphones in general - is to selectively opt-out of those non-stop pop-up notifications. Notifications are purposefully designed to create a sense of false urgency, leading to a feedback loop of addiction. But there is rarely, if ever, urgency in social media (or nearly all of the other apps that constantly ping us). Even with the best intentions to contain use, the list of notifications on your locked screen creates a sometimes-irresistible urge to peek at the action. 


By selectively deleting social media apps from your phone, use is inherently restricted to an actual computer. This relegates engagement to specific, limited settings and eliminates the temptation to mindlessly scroll during opportunities for reflective moments. For certain services, like Instagram or Snapchat, phone use is unfortunately the only straight-forward option. But in the case of Facebook, removal of the app is an excellent way to create a powerful boundary.


Yes, you can forgo one or more of the social media networks. This allows you to reallocate your time to specific networks (or other activities) that are personally or professional higher yield. Of course, depending on your marketing goals, this may not be feasible. But it is worth considering, especially if you are deriving most your professional and personal value from a select few services.


If you are trying to positively leverage social media for marketing - like any marketing effort - it’s best to have a plan. Instead of deciding day-to-day what, where and how to post, sharing can be pre-determined on a weekly or monthly basis. This not only leads to more thoughtfulness about overall messaging, but reduces the inefficiency of posting randomly and on-the-fly. If you're looking for organization ideas, a quick online search will lead to various templates and data-driven recommendations for maximizing your social media ROI.


In conjunction planning, social media use can be made intentional and meaningful by batching and scheduling. There are several online services that allow you to centralize all your accounts and schedule posts in creative and practical ways. And most of these programs allow you to post without actually logging into the service, which is an added bonus – especially if you tend to get sucked into content consumption when just intending to share your own.


If you find social media to be a necessary evil, it may be worth the added expense to dedicate staff to it. This could be as little as physically posting photos and captions you generate, and as hands-off as putting someone in charge of all content, posting and responses. Although potentially expensive, consider the time-intensiveness of social media management. What additional value could you generate by outsourcing in order to focus on more high-yield professional (or personal) activities?


There is pressure on social media to reciprocally follow, and there can be strong FOMO (fear of missing out) at the idea of no longer getting someone’s content updates. But if you truly find joy in consuming social media content, but notice little value or even negative emotion related to the posts of certain individuals, it is a wise choice to eliminate their content from your feed. In some networks, like Facebook, this can be achieved without actually “de-friending” but by merely “unfollowing”. With so little time in the day, why waste a moment interacting with something that hold little or no personal value.   

The objective is not necessarily to eliminate social media use (although for some this may be a reasonable conclusion). Instead, pick and choose from the above tools to establish systems and boundaries with the goal of an intentional practice. This will help to maximize personal and professional value, while minimizing unintentional distraction and negativity: for yourself and for your patients.

Author Bio:

Dr. Jonathan Cabin is a board-certified facial plastic & reconstructive surgeon with a private practice in Beverly Hills, California. His areas of expertise include surgical and non-surgical facial rejuvenation, primary and revision rhinoplasty, facial reconstruction, and migraine surgery. In addition to caring for his patients, Dr. Cabin writes on the topics of performance-enhancement for physicians, surgical coaching, and bringing joy and meaning back into the practice of medicine.