Burned out no more: How concierge physicians restore their joy in medicine

February 24, 2020

Physicians explain how a new practice model saved their careers.

In my years as CEO of leading healthcare organizations, I’ve seen firsthand how burnout affects physicians, especially the most committed ones, to the point that they’re reconsidering their life’s calling. They are endlessly frustrated over the type of care they’re able to provide, and constantly dogged by the feeling that something important might have been missed. Work-life balance seems like a distant, unreachable goal, buried under long days packed with dozens of forced cursory patient visits and endless hours at the computer in the evenings. Dreams of pursuing long-held professional interests and research, participating in medical conferences, mentoring the next generation of physicians, or volunteering in the community are shelved indefinitely, along with time spent strengthening life’s most essential connections - family and friends. It seems sadly ironic that today’s patients increasingly recognize the value of care that nurtures mind and spirit in addition to body. Should we seek any less for our doctors?

With concierge medicine, we offer physicians a viable solution that enables them to reclaim their lives. The evidence goes well beyond anecdotal for this model that continues to expand two decades after its introduction into a system that was deteriorating from within. To quantify what we’ve been hearing since our concierge practice management company was founded in 2002, we asked our current clients to participate in the “State of the Concierge Physician” survey.  We asked: how were their spirits? Were they satisfied with their career choice, and would they recommend it to the next generation? What do they consider to be the greatest rewards of changing to the concierge practice model?

Their responses painted a vivid before and after picture that left no doubt as to the transformative nature of the transition. More than 80% of our physician-clients described their professional morale as very positive.  Virtually all would choose medicine as a career again, and the same number would recommend it as a career path to young people. The restoration of time was key to what our physicians identified as the two most satisfying aspects of concierge medicine - developing deeper relationships with patients and providing a much-improved work-life balance.

Embedded in these numbers are deeply personal stories – of intense frustration with a broken healthcare system, of profound regret for prioritizing professional over personal, but also of the soul-restoring change to concierge medicine that defines their new path. It’s my privilege to share highlights of their inspiring comments.

Tipping points:

“Most of us are burned out for far longer than we think we are. My solution was always to just suck it up, keep working harder and hope things will get better. But it wasn’t working and I wasn’t happy and my patients weren’t happy. I was burned out to the point I was done with medicine if this change wasn’t a success. Now I can’t imagine ever going back to the way things were.” NM, Atlanta, GA

“I was burning the candle at both ends, working all day and then after dinner, going upstairs to work until 1 in the morning. The next day I’d get up at 6 am and do it again. It wasn’t sustainable. Now I’m glad I can continue my career and continue to love what I do.” CS, Manlius, NY

“Before transition, it was all about long, frustrating days with no time to exercise, eat right, teach, read, see patients in the hospital or at home. After, I had time to rekindle my passions -  pursue my interests in genetics, dig deeply into cardiovascular disease prevention, make home visits to patients. I wake up every day and can’t wait to get to my practice, see my patients, strategize about what’s next with my partners. I truly love the practice of medicine again.” JP, Greenwich, CT

Finding balance, restoring joy:

“I wanted to be home in time to read to my children and put them to bed and give my patients as much time as needed to answer all their questions. Concierge medicine was – and still is – the best way to achieve both.” MS, Burbank CA

“I decided I can’t change the system, but I can change the way I practice medicine and give care. I now have the time to guide patients on their journey to wellness, rejoice at their successes or sit with them in hospice and share their pain. It’s why I went into medicine.” UJ, Milton, DE

 “I just celebrated 27 years of marriage and for much of that time, I’ve always put my patients’ interests front and center, missing so many of my daughters’ growth periods. Now I have the ability to maintain that dedication to my patients but give my family, friends and myself the time I deserve.” DC, Mountain View, CA

“I need to guide my patients through the stages of their lives in a way they feel I’m marching in step with them. With concierge medicine, I can pursue my passion without worrying my livelihood or family will be harmed.” AR, Vernon Hills, IL

“What I can do for that person in that moment to make their life better is why I became a doctor, and concierge medicine is why I love being a doctor again.” JW, Riverside, CT

Concierge medicine may not be the solution for every doctor or every practice. However, for those who are able to fully adopt the model, it provides a powerful solution for eliminating burnout - a rare opportunity to reimagine your life as a physician, spouse, parent and valued member of the community.

By Terry Bauer, CEO of Specialdocs, a pioneering concierge practice transition and management company established in 2002 that has helped physicians nationwide transform their practices with the industry’s most customized and sustainable concierge model.