Physician Isolation and Why Community Matters with Victoria Silas MD

by Coach Jill Farmer | Physician Coaching, Podcast, Programs

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“You don’t know what you don’t know. And so the benefit of talking with people that you don’t talk with all the time is hearing their solutions to the problems you’ve been having.” -Victoria Silas MD 

In this episode, Jill talks with Victoria Silas MD on the importance of community for physicians. You work with other people, you talk with them on occasion, you pass them in the halls. But do you really feel a sense of connection with them? Are you able to show your vulnerable side? Or do they only know the ‘at work’ version of yourself? Giving physicians a place to be themselves and foster meaningful connections is one of the many passions of DocWorking. That is why we created DocWorking THRIVE. One of the many aspects of THRIVE is a private Facebook community for physicians to connect with other physicians in a meaningful way. Victoria Silas MD is the facilitator of the THRIVE private physician Facebook community and in this episode she shares why she is passionate about the community we are building and why it is so important for physicians, especially now. 

Victoria Silas, MD is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and certified coach with 21 years experience in practicing medicine and 10 years experience in coaching. Now retired from medicine, Victoria helps other physicians cultivate a sense of calm and control in their personal and professional lives, as they regain their love for medicine and rekindle their sense of purpose and professional excitement. 

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Victoria: You don’t know what you don’t know. So, the benefit of talking with people that you don’t talk with all the time is hearing their solutions to the problems that you’ve been having.


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Jill: Hi, everyone. We’re so glad you’re here on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, one of the lead coaches that DocWorking and one of the cohosts has a podcast, and I’m really excited today to be joined by Victoria Silas, MD, one of our other coaches at DocWorking, who helps facilitate our community as part of our DocWorking Thrive program. Victoria is also a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in pediatrics. She also has been a Chief of Surgery in her career, and she is a Certified Coach who now works full time with physicians as part of her company medical minds consulting.


Victoria, today, we’re here to talk about why sometimes being a doctor can be lonely and why community is so important for physicians? So, based on your own experience is somebody who I mean, you were working with people all the time, patients, colleagues in the hospital, what do you think it is that sometimes we say, being a doctor can be lonely for physicians?


Victoria: Well, I think even though you’re around people all the time, you’re not necessarily connecting with them, and you’re really not necessarily connecting with them as your whole person. A lot of times when we go to clinic, we put on a little bit of a persona. For example, I’m naturally an introvert, but if I go into a clinic room and I don’t talk, nobody talks. So, I have to be a more extroverted version of myself when I’m in clinic, and that takes me away from myself and who I really am, and that can be a lonely experience. 


I also think that we are trained as physicians to do it alone. We don’t always reach out for help when we have concerns about patients or about other things in our lives. We just figure, “Well, I’m a doctor. I’m supposed to handle it.” We don’t get that added support when we need it, and we also sometimes don’t want to express our vulnerability. So, that too, can lead to loneliness, because you’re not really sharing all of who you are with people, and it’s not appropriate to share all of who you are with everybody all the time, even though, you’re surrounded by people.


Jill: Yeah, really good point. I think both of us putting on our coach hats would tell someone that, it does take some vulnerability to form real connections with people. As I know, somebody I really like a lot, Brené Brown, who is a researcher and studied– She says, not everybody has earned our vulnerability. So, part of that learning to make meaningful connections with colleagues is to find trustworthy people who have earned that vulnerability and then have the ability to use them in a trusted relationship. Would you agree with that?


Victoria: Absolutely. It does take a certain amount of time, well, depending on the person. But to express that vulnerability and being willing to show someone else where you don’t know something or where you need help.


Jill: Yeah, and a little bit of a shameless plug here. But that’s sometimes where a coach comes in really handy, too, because that’s where we get that domestic thinking partnership as well. So, let’s talk about why it’s important for physicians to create community outside of work. Of course, people are going to create community if they have kids or other interests outside of work. But what about creating community with other physicians, that’s something that I know you value as well, and I want to hear more from you about why you know it’s important?


Victoria: Well, it’s important to understand that you’re in many ways just like everybody else. Sometimes, we want to feel that we’re unique and we’re special. But again, that puts us in this armor of invulnerability. So, it’s helpful to know that everybody worries about complications and everybody worries about patient satisfaction scores. It really helps normalize your experience, so that you don’t feel badly about it if you get some kind of feedback that brings up concerns about how you’re doing as a physician.


Jill: Tell me a little bit about why you like the DocWorking Thrive model of having a community on Facebook for physicians, a private confidential community, where physicians who are part of DocWorking thrive can come together. You listed one of them obviously into that nobody’s alone in this, and then other people are experiencing some of the things that they’re experiencing. What else do you see as being meaningful, and putting doctors together in this kind of a community?


Victoria: Well, one thing that I really like about it is, when you’re in a community of doctors that all work in the same place, it can be a bit of an echo chamber. People can have the same perceptions of other doctors or administration. So, it’s really valuable to have a larger community that’s national for both the good and the bad, and even the ugly. It’s comforting sometimes to know, “Oh, these problems that I’m seeing, they’re not unique to my facility. They’re national problems.” It’s a national systemic problem, and that can change your thinking about, it’s not that you’re working in an evil place or a difficult place. It’s that these are universal problems that positions across the country are dealing with right now, or on the flip side, these are the universal benefits of being a physician in this time and place.


Jill: Yeah, I was going to say there’s a meaningful connection that comes from identifying that you’re not alone, and that we have the same challenges, and it can be really inspiring to get together with other people who aren’t just talking to the same people about the same things over and over again with no new solutions. I know, that’s a big intention of what you are creating as a coach for that environment of being able to lift people up. Talk a little more about that.


Victoria: Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, the benefit of talking with people that you don’t talk with all the time is hearing their solutions to the problems that you’ve been having. It opens your eyes to what’s possible, which I think is super important. Particularly, during this time, that’s been so stressful for physicians. We have to keep looking towards how can we make this better? Because if we don’t keep our eyes and our hearts focused on how it can be better, it’s not going to get better.


Jill: Yeah, really, really good point. For somebody who hasn’t been as part of a community like this before, or there only communities have been through professional organizations, how do you see it working, and how is it working for physicians who are joining in to make connections to build relationships to be supportive of each other in this DocWorking Thrive Facebook community?


Victoria: I think there can be a natural hesitancy in opening up in a “public forum” about how you really feel about this that or the other thing. So, the benefit of something like DocWorking Thrive is, it’s not public. It’s private. That privacy will hopefully allow people to open up in a way that they wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable doing. It also allows people to talk about things that they wouldn’t necessarily want to talk about in their workplace.


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Jill: I know you’re passionate about learning.


Victoria: [laughs] 


Jill:  I happen to have you known for a while, and you love learning. So, I know that’s a big part of what you want to create too in this community is opportunity to provide new information about subject matter that isn’t just purely related to somebody’s professional practice, and we’ve talked about this in the past. Medical education is phenomenal at giving people medical education, but sometimes, doctors feel like they want more information on some of the challenges of just living life, whether it’s financial literacy, or leadership, or communication. So, how do you see this community helping with that learning component of things as well? 


Victoria: Well, one of the things I love so much about physicians is, they are inherently lifelong learners. I think it’s in their nature and they’re certainly encouraged to be lifelong learners with things having to recertify for boards, and go to meetings, and get CME, and all of those things. But as you mentioned, sometimes, their learning can be a little bit tunnel vision. So, one of the things we hope to do in DocWorking Thrive is open people’s eyes to other areas of life, other teachers who are outside of medicine, who have wisdom that could help physicians in their day-to-day lives.


Jill: I love it, and I have to say, the community is already starting, and it’s so fun to see people making connections and starting to build those relationships. It’s got to be fun for you as the coach in charge of that facilitation as well.


Victoria: Yeah, it was really delightful to say, and I know that some people say, “Well, social media, you’re not really making connections with people.” But I disagree with that. I think you absolutely have the possibility of forming real relationships with people even if you just meet them online. And those relationships are as meaningful and important as you allow them to be.


Jill: Really, really well said. Final thoughts on why now, maybe more than ever, it’s important for physicians to find community with people outside of just workplace or the places where they already have community. Why is that so important in this era we’re in of practicing medicine?


Victoria: Well, as you and I have talked about before, I think most physicians are inspired to go into medicine. But along the way through the slog that is medical school, and residency, and then starting practice, a lot of us can lose that spark. So, what we hope to do with DocWorking Thrive is help people reignite that spark of inspiration that brought them to medicine, that made them want to be in service for their lives.


Jill: Amen. There’s no better way to say it. That’s really the driving mission that is inspiring all of us who are on the DocWorking team to put this together to help keep the fires lit for physicians doing really, really important work in the world, including you. So, Dr. Victoria Silas, MD, thank you so much for sharing your ideas and reminding us why community matters, especially now.


Victoria: Thank you, Jill. It was absolutely my pleasure.


Jill: And thank all of you for joining us today. We are so glad you’re here. We’re growing all the time. Tell your friends about us. We love having you as part of this community. For DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, I’m Jill Farmer.


[DocWorking Theme]


Amanda: Hi, this is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Please don’t forget to like, and subscribe, and thank you for listening.


Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

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