“I think a lot of times, in our minds we think we have this personal, big problem and that we are the only ones who have it, and so we’re embarrassed to admit it and we’re embarrassed to talk about it. But when you realize, ‘Oh, everybody has this problem,’ suddenly it doesn’t seem like as big of a problem anymore.” Dr. Jen Barna MD
In this episode, Coach Jill Farmer sits down with DocWorking’s Founder and CEO, Dr. Jen Barna for an honest and sincere conversation about why she created DocWorking. Dr. Barna is a board certified practicing radiologist and a visionary entrepreneur. She talks about the struggles she has faced balancing life and medicine, how she came to realize she was not alone, and how the transformation she experienced with professional coaching combined with recognition of the importance of community led to DocWorking THRIVE.
DocWorking THRIVE was created for doctors based on all the things doctors have told us they wanted. It is designed to accommodate the already overloaded physician’s schedule while providing ongoing group coaching, self paced courses and a strong physician community facilitated by our experienced coaching team, many of whom are physicians themselves.
Dr. Barna’s subspecialty is breast imaging, and she practices in the northeastern US since 2006. She earned her medical degree and completed her Diagnostic Radiology residency at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. She earned a masters degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Washington University in St. Louis, and her undergraduate degree from Stony Brook University in New York. Her business experience includes several startups, including Qelse (https://www.qelse.shop) an e-commerce boutique that creates designer walker/mobility bags, stroller bags and caddies.
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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran
Please enjoy the full transcript below-
Jen: I think a lot of times in our minds, we think we have this personal big problem that we are the only ones who have it, and so we’re embarrassed to admit it, and we’re embarrassed to talk about it. But when you realize, “Oh, everybody has this problem,” suddenly it doesn’t seem like as big of a problem anymore.
Jill: Hi, everyone, and welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer from the DocWorking team. Today, I’m really happy to be joined by our CEO and founder at DocWorking, Dr. Jen Barna, MD. Jen, thanks so much for coming over to have a conversation with us today. I know you like to make things happen behind the scenes, but I think it’s fun for us to be able to have a chat and specifically today, for a lot of our audiences, our physician audience grows and grows in the podcast, people might not know how it all began. Why DocWorking is here? I think that’s interesting and meaningful for people to understand why DocWorking is in the world and how you came to be where you are now.
Jen: Thank you, Jill. It’s wonderful to be here with you having this conversation. For me, I’m a practicing radiologist, and I’ve noticed over the years since I was in medical school, residency, and then into private practice, at first in a solo practice and then in an academic practice, and then in a private practice with a single-specialty group of radiologists, there were so many hurdles that I felt that I was jumping, and many times, it was my impression that I was alone in some of these struggles. Not in the work itself but, actually, in balancing the work with having a life outside of the work. We all get the academic part, and that’s really not a problem, the boards and the CME and all of the work itself. When you’re doing the work, you’re really all in and you enjoy the work. And when you’re home, you’re all in and you enjoy being home. And then, somehow transitioning from one to the other, especially if you have kids, there are different points that trigger this for different people. For me, it was having children. For other people, I’ve found as I’ve moved along, there are many things that come up in people’s personal lives that make this kind of balance difficult.
Over the years, I really struggled with balancing my desire to spend more quality time with my husband and my children with the pressures and the workload. Especially as a woman in a field that is male dominated, I wanted to be sure that I pulled my weight, that there wasn’t a difference between what I delivered in terms of my work versus anyone else, I just found I often felt I was walking a tightrope. As long as nothing happened, as long as no one got sick and nothing happened to make me step off that tightrope, everything was okay. But there was just a lot of anxiety about the possibility that I could step off at any time. And, of course, kids do get sick, and it was always a juggle with a two-career household who would take care of that, and I really, genuinely wanted to be there for my kids, and often I couldn’t. So, that was my personal struggle.
What I found is that, first of all over time, despite the fact that I really enjoyed working with my colleagues, I actually didn’t generally work in the same location as the other radiologists. Because of our specialty, I was typically leading a team, but I was the only physician leading that team at any given location, and my partners were elsewhere. So, we really didn’t have time to connect and have that sense of community and share. We would call each other during the day and share cases and ask each other’s opinions. But when it came to that ability to form a community, that was a little bit more difficult, because our time was so limited. We would love to hang out in theory with each other after work, but after work, that’s when you want to go home and have your life outside of work. It’s just very difficult to fit that in.
Traditionally, physicians had more of that camaraderie and maybe some people do, but I felt going through, that was something that was difficult to work out and because of that, I think a lot of physicians, including myself feel isolated. What I found is that I was looking for some professional coaching over time and eventually came to you and Gabriella Dennery, and pulled you guys together to come to one platform where we could begin to offer a very high-level experienced physician coaching because I found it very difficult to find what I was looking for. That’s how it began for me and that’s what motivated me to start DocWorking.
Jill: That’s common from a lot of the other physicians in our audience, is the story. There’s a lot of elements there that I know people can really relate to this idea of not minding working really hard at work, and also not necessarily ever being told how to transition from work to home in a way that felt balanced and didn’t feel you were, as you said, walking this tightrope, or another metaphor that some of my clients will use is having a really, really full platter. Which is fine, they’re happy to hold the full platter, but then all of a sudden, something else gets dumped on, and the whole thing tips over. I think that’s a very common experience for physicians. And then also, just longing for a sense of community. You found coaching as a way to be able to help give you some outside ideas.
I think of it as a trusted thinking partner outside your own circle, to begin to help you find some answers to those solutions as well. That was great for you, and you were a mid-career physician, finding success in work and life, your kids are getting older. Some people say, “Well, why didn’t you just relax?” [laughs] Instead, you said, “Okay, I think I found the solution. Let me form a company that helps bring this to other doctors as well.” Why did you decide not to just find the solution for yourself, but to turn this into a company that could do this for other physicians so that they could walk a different road than you did in finding this?
Jen: Well, what happened for me is that when I first began practicing, I was working all of the time and finding that I was missing that balance between home and work. What I thought is if I pursue business outside of medicine, something unrelated to medicine is what I initially began to do, perhaps I can actually find a way out. That was initially my intention. I started exploring entrepreneurship really about around probably 2008 or so. I began doing some different things, I created some other businesses, and I’ve really enjoyed that process. It was a lot of learning as I went. Everything I learned, I basically, read books and listened to podcasts. I was fascinated with that whole journey. That’s really where I began to see coaching as being such a useful tool. I began to see that other people in other industries were using coaching. Elite athletes use it, top actors use it, top executives use it. It’s a given. They know that it makes a huge difference, and it’s been shown to make a huge difference for physicians as well, but it’s not that common among physicians yet.
It ended up making me work even more, because when I was at home, I was working all the business things and all hours, but I enjoyed that. Gabriella Dennery, our other lead coach at DocWorking is the first person to kind of help me understand– I raised that exact same question to her the first conversation we ever had, I said, “I’m actually trying to work less, but for some reason, I keep pursuing these businesses and actually working more, and I don’t even quite understand why I’m doing that.” She said, “Well, I think you get a lot of personal satisfaction out of the business. For you, that’s your hobby. That’s your passion.” That was really absolutely right on target, I really enjoy it. That’s part of what motivates me to bring this as a platform.
I’ve actually been watching this space for a decade, and just not seeing what I really was looking for myself. Ultimately, when I began working with you and Gabriella, what I found was I went unexpectedly through this transformation where there were so many things that I just understood better about myself, and what I was trying to do and what my intentions are, and also about my work and how to manage my time and just things that I just felt, “If I had known this a decade ago, it really would have given me a way to enjoy my work on a different level.” I’m glad to come to it now. But I’m hoping that by bringing DocWorking and bringing this expert team of experienced coaches who really know how to work with physicians, to other people, that other people can accomplish this sooner in their career than I did.
Jill: That brings us to now. As an experienced physician, and as you look at colleagues and around you in your community, and also around the country, through professional organizations and all the other reasons you have to get to know them, why do you think the things that you wanted to bring to physicians that weren’t available to you in a centralized and hub setting? Why do you think it’s more important to do that now than it ever has been? Because I know that’s a passion for you right now. You could say, “Yeah, I’ll get to this someday. This is a good business model. It really doesn’t exist.” But you’ve been really passionate about doing it now in the midst of the pandemic, because I think it’s a mission for you because you think it’s needed. Tell us more about that.
Jen: Absolutely. Physician burnout was a serious problem prior to the pandemic as everyone knows, we talk about it often. It’s really an epidemic among physicians, and it’s a crisis. The pandemic has just exponentially– at least we feel it at an exponentially higher level. In my first year of residency, lost a fellow resident to suicide. So, it’s not something new. But it’s a serious problem and it seems to be getting worse. What I wanted to do is create a platform that brings physician coaching not only to address burnout, but to provide solutions that can prevent burnout, and also to empower physicians. We understand that it’s not about simply being more mindful, like physicians to tweak their schedule, a little time management just a little bit, and that’s going to fix things. We understand that. You, after working with physicians for a decade, and Gabrielle and I, and other physician coaches on our team and the coaches on our team in general, we know that it’s more complex than that. But with the tools that we’re providing, giving physicians tools that allow them to be in a position of power, and feel some stability, when we’re in that place, it allows us to go back to the drawing room, and maybe take that step, maybe be confident to raise that idea to come up and be part of the solution.
There are changes that we need to make to our healthcare system. Physicians obviously need to be at the table in making those changes. I think that by creating a really strong community of physicians, where we have camaraderie, we know each other, it’s not just your own little circle of physicians who you work with every day, but you know physicians across the country and different specialties through this process, we can exchange ideas, and we can mentor each other, which I think physicians naturally are inclined to do. I think we can all benefit and our whole system will benefit.
For me personally, it has given me a whole new perspective on the work that I do. I appreciate my work, and really appreciate my group and the administrators in my group who are very physician friendly. I’m very fortunate that way.
Jill: It’s just powerful right to hear you talk about this idea of understanding for yourself, and then wanting to be able to create that for other physicians, how to put themselves back in the driver’s seat of their own life, so to speak. Taking that power back, getting some agency to determine what they want to do and how they want to do it. Ultimately, I think everybody’s goal is to serve patients to the best of their ability and to do it in a sustainable way, in a way that they can see going on in the long run. I think that’s powerful.
One of the ways DocWorking does that, of course, is this podcast. There’ve been rich conversations with Dr. Camelia Lawrence and Bridgette Boudreau just in the past few weeks on this subject. And then, the other way that I think is more personal, and has a little bit, I would say, deeper roots and stronger legs, even, around this is DocWorking THRIVE. I think DocWorking THRIVE is a way that you taking this vision and we’ve put it together. The team has really listened hard to what physicians right now living in 2021 needs in order to thrive and put that together into a subscription that’s designed, first and foremost, to create community, to provide meaningful information that works within the physician schedule. And then, to also provide really top-notch coaching in that group setting to be able to help people get through those stuck places. Talk a little bit about why you’re excited about DocWorking THRIVE and how you think it’s going to be of service to physicians and why it’s unique.
Jen: One thing that I found when I started DocWorking, and we began talking with other physicians and I began talking with you and Gabriella about all the physicians that you have coached. I began reaching out and speaking to physicians on a different level than I had previously. I found that much of what I felt isolated about, actually, that I’m not unique and feeling that way. Basically, it seems almost universal. Regardless of the age of the physician I’m speaking with, regardless of the gender, regardless of the specialty, I have found people to be really interested in forming a community and taking advantage of the tools that coaching can provide. That includes visioning, that includes leadership, career goals, as well as personal goals and intentions. The people that I’ve spoken with who have utilized coaching and utilized mentorship, they really are at the top of their field and you can see that it has worked so well for them. These are things that I didn’t really know could make that huge of a difference early on.
Part of what we’re doing with DocWorking THRIVE is we’re providing ongoing coaching, monthly small group coaching. The idea is to combine the coaching with a community building, private Facebook group that’s only physicians, facilitated by our coaching team. It’s facilitated in such a way to build relationships, to help people to feel comfortable talking to each other. People can submit questions anonymously if they don’t want to speak up. I’ve talked with a lot of physicians who don’t really want to speak to their everyday colleagues about concerns or struggles that they personally face, but they could take advantage of this by hearing other physicians speak to the same issues.
A lot of times in our minds, we think we have this personal big problem that we are the only ones who have it, and so we’re embarrassed to admit it, and we’re embarrassed to talk about it. But when you realize, “Oh, everybody has this problem,” suddenly, it doesn’t seem as big of a problem anymore. Suddenly, you realize, “Oh, well, not only do we all have this, but some people have already overcome this, and this is what they did. And I’m not alone in this.” There’s so much to be gained by that. THRIVE is unique in that way.
It’s not just a one-time short coaching stint of a few weeks. Really, the idea is that ongoing coaching can continue to benefit you whatever stage you’re in, even though you may have had coaching already, to continue to work with a team of coaches so that you can pick and choose and take what is most useful to you at any given point. The idea is to continue to use this indefinitely really, to be part of the community, to utilize the coaching services. The other idea is for your group or your hospital to include this package so that every physician in the group is then included, and everyone can use it. There’s no stigma. There’s no need for coaching. You’re not having to go to someone and ask for coaching, it’s just already there for you to use to the fullest extent you can.
Everything we have is also designed to work on a busy schedule, so we understand the time limitations. The biggest thing that I hear from people, and we’ve listened to this, is that people say, “I need this terribly, but I don’t have time.” We hear that, and I understand that because I’ve been there, myself, and neglected myself beyond where I should have for years. I really get that. We’ve created everything here so that you can take little pieces at a time and begin to carve out a little bit of time for yourself. As you build it, you can choose to increase that or not. Everything is really designed for physicians specifically.
Jill: If I’m going to interject anything that makes me the most excited about all of this, it’s exactly that. I’ve been doing this work for a long time and I love it. I’ve been very fortunate to work with physicians at some wonderful academic institutions, you name it, Harvard, Northwestern, Washington University, as well as people working in rural areas in various parts of the country in much smaller hospital settings. I love every minute that I’ve gotten to coach physicians and every time I’ve gotten to go into organization and talk about time and stress management. I had this sense, “There’s got to be a way to do this beyond just me, jumping around and having these relationships with individual people.” Gabriella brings such wisdom based on her own experience as a physician and her own journey, and all of the tools that she has learned to thrive in that setting as well as you being a physician.
It’s so exciting for me to be able to bring together the things that you guys know as physicians and I’ve been listening to physicians say for over a decade, “It would be great if I could learn more about how to communicate meaningfully.” The medical school education is phenomenal. It’s so many different things and just so comprehensive in its depth, like nothing else in the world in terms of preparing physicians for the practice of medicine. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave a lot of space for doing stuff like communication, financial literacy, leadership training, conflict management, boundaries, all of those things that I think we listened to physicians that said, “I’d love more ways to learn in an easily digestible way how to incorporate that into my life and to get someone else outside of me in a coaching relationship to help me be able to integrate that to create more balance and just more of a zest for living beyond work.” It’s been really fun to have this very unique way to pull it together. I don’t think it exists anywhere else and that’s one of my other favorite things about this.
I know I get a little jazzed up about it, but I really do think it is something that isn’t out there, and that’s going to make a big difference for doctors.
Jen: The other thing that I think has been so amazing working with you and Gabriella specifically too, is that in addition to your own high level of expertise, working with doctors, you guys have brought together a group of coaches that really has depth because we have coaches who specialize in leadership and confidence and parenting, and so many different areas, finance and budgeting. There’s so much more coming. There’s so much that we have to offer as a team and our team is growing. So, it’s very exciting to be a part of it.
Jill: It is. Thank you, guys, all for being here as part of this conversation, because every time you get to know us and what motivates us a little bit better, I think it helps you to understand why DocWorking matters and the ways that it can help you thrive in your own life as well. Anything else that you want our physician listeners to know about what it is we’re doing here and why you’re excited about THRIVE?
Jen: I would just like to say that we created DocWorking THRIVE for you based on what you’ve asked us for. We’re here listening and we want your feedback. We want to know what you want to hear on the podcast. We want to know what you’re interested in learning more about. We’re here to get to know you in the THRIVE community. We’re all here for you. Please take advantage of that and let us help you be part of this community.
Jill: Dr. Jen Barna, MD, practicing Radiologist, Founder and CEO of DocWorking. Thank you so much for having this conversation. It was really fun. Thanks to all of you for joining us for being part of the DocWorking community. We are so glad you’re here. Until next time, I’m Jill Farmer on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.
Speaker: Stay tuned for more from today’s guest after this important message.
Did you know that August is National Civic Health Month? Civic Health Month is a month dedicated to highlighting the important connection between civic participation and health, and features hundreds of hospitals and clinics and thousands of individual healthcare providers, all committed to helping their patients and providers vote like their health depends on it. Civic Health Month makes it easy for you to get involved by providing personalized tools and resources like badge backers and posters to help your patients register to vote.
And the best part, it’s completely free. Over 26,000 healthcare providers, just like you, are already taking action toward creating a healthy democracy. So, why not join them? Visit www.civichealthmonth.org, to learn more and get involved.
Amanda: Hello, and thank you for listening. This is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of the DocWorking podcast. If you enjoyed our podcast, please like and subscribe. We would also love it, if you checked out our website which is docworking.com. You can also find us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram. On Instagram, we are @docworking1, and that is with the number one. When you check us out on social, please let us know what you would like to hear on the podcast. Your feedback really means a lot to us. And if you’re a physician with a story you’d like to tell, please reach out to me at [email protected] to apply to be on the podcast. Thank you again and we look forward to talking with you on the next episode of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.