Name: Dike Drummond, M.D.
Work: CEO and founder of The Happy MD
Undergraduate: Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Med school: Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minnesota
Residency: Shasta Cascade Family Practice Residency, Redding, California
Drummond is a physician coach, trainer, consultant and health care speaker who specializes in burnout prevention. He created The Happy MD and has trained a team of six certified physician burnout coaches, all of whom are also physicians. Drummond and his team provide coaching services. He is also the author of Stop Physician Burnout. Drummond has worked for 140 different organizations and has trained around 30,000 physicians.
What do you like about being a physician coach?
I like working with physicians from all over the world on important life changes from the comfort of my home office. My presence on the internet is quite extensive. When I come into my office every morning, my inbox is like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates: I never know exactly what’s going to be in there. But I know it’s always going to be physicians or physician leaders talking about burnout and burnout prevention.
Happy, healthy doctors take better care of their patients. We know that is true. So for me, I’m always working with somebody who wants to change something about their life. It’s always an important transition, because burnout marks their transition. They can’t go any farther in the current direction of their career. They have to make a change, and burnout is the motivation.
I help physicians get clear on what they really want and help them make that transition. The doctor, their family, their teams and their patients all benefit.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
It’s really not applicable to me; I was chosen to do this work. I burned out of my family practice after 10 busy years. After I burned out, there was about three or four years I wasn’t sure what came next. I was a walk-in clinic doctor working part time and had completed coach certification training.
Then my ex-wife and I created a training company that taught leadership training for people in the Navy’s LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt Certification program. It became clear to me that what I needed to do was to help burned out doctors.
The only thing I don’t like 100 percent is the size of the need and how busy we have become.
Was there anything about doing this that surprised you?
One is how much of the action doctors take in their day-to-day practice is unconscious reflex activity. They learn a way of doing things in residency and they become creatures of habit in their practice.
A lot of what I do is to help physicians wake up by showing them that simple changes can make a big difference in how they feel and how they enjoy their practice. They’ve been out there asleep for a while and are finally waking up. It’s pain that’s waking them up to the fact that they might not want to keep doing what they’ve always done. I help them get clear on their new goals and take new actions to get there.
The second thing that surprised me is the error in the English language when it comes to the word burnout. We call burnout a problem, and that isn’t true. By definition, a problem has a solution. Burnout is a dilemma, a never-ending balancing act. You address a dilemma with a strategy.
What advice would you have for physicians who might want to coach other physicians?
Remember, coaching is a business. Anyone can coach. The hard part is the marketing and sales that go into acquiring clients.
Coaching is a skillset, and it’s very different from what doctors are used to. For example, doctors are used to being right. They’re used to being the boss and telling people what to do. That’s not what a coach is. Some physicians may not like being a coach because of this difference in philosophy.
If they’re a doctor considering becoming a coach, I recommend they attend an exploratory coaching class. The difference between having coaching as a new skillset and being able to make a living at it as an independent coach is the ability to acquire clients and have them pay you.
If you plan to coach other physicians, make sure you attend an executive marketing program, choose your niche and learn to market now.
You decide what it is that you want to coach physicians about. My theme is burnout. There are all sorts of other challenges a physician coach could choose to address, such as physician entrepreneur, physician mom, etc. Decide, then notice where those you choose to coach congregate online and what the conversations are.