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Ms Fix-It Needs a Break

boundaries problem solving Mar 25, 2023
Bamboo by Pexels of Pixabay

You are an amazing problem solver. Physicians solve problems. We figure stuff out. We fix stuff.  Our job requires curiosity, pattern recognition, differential evaluation and creating plans.

If you have other life roles, including caring for elderly parents, raising young ones, being head of the PTA, etc you probably have a lot of other arenas where these skills are also useful.

So we spend our days putting out fires, solving problems, thinking “ok, go this taken care of, and this,” confident that we will find some respite soon, and that people will be happy and content.


The reward for solving problems is more problems.

And people LOVE that you solve their problems so much, that they bring you more and more.

This used to bother me tremendously, because I never considered the big picture. I, like many of you, was someone that the nurses would come to frequently to ask questions. Certainly about my own patients, but also about other people’s patients as well. Sometimes even when those doctors were also in clinic working. They did it because I was helpful and nice, and brains choose the easiest, least painful paths to get their problems solved. I enjoyed being respected and valued. BUT, it was eating up my time. It wasn’t appropriate either for me to answer questions about other people’s patients. And their appreciation of my help reinforced my lack of boundaries, which ultimately led to me feeling constantly drained, overwhelmed and resentful.

I am not advocating for you NOT being a problem solver. That’s still our job. And patients and staff will continue to come to you with problems.

But what I am advocating for here, is that you decide which problems are yours, and you start coaching others to solve problems that don’t require you. You can do this with kindness, and clarity, and still be a valuable team member, but one who doesn’t take on the responsibility of others.

Here’s how this might go:

-Patient emails you that the pharmacy is out of their blood pressure medicine, and they want you to send a prescription elsewhere. Your message back is that they confirm which pharmacy has the medicine in stock and let you know, so you can redirect the prescription; better still, tell them to have the pharmacy transfer the prescription.

-The front desk person knocks on the door, tells you that the next patient just arrived, 22 minutes late, can then check them in for their physical? You refer them to the late arrival policy, which states after 15 minutes, the appointment will need to be rescheduled.

-Your kids are fighting (again) about what to do this weekend as a family. You ask them to come up with 3 ideas that everyone can agree on, and then you will decide which one works best.

Are these over-simplified? Maybe, but again this is an instance where we are often quick to jump in and respond, when we don’t really need to. It’s ok to not fix these problems, and to put the responsibility back onto others. Let some things go. Let others fumble, and coach them if they need help, but ultimately let them do the work. Then you get more brain space for the things that really do need YOUR attention and expertise.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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