For many of us, fear is what is holding us back. For Dr. Lara Hochman, taking actionable steps to identify, name, and process those fears led her to a much happier and healthier place.
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Lara Hochman, MD is a Family Medicine physician, and advocate for fellow physicians’ wellbeing amidst rising burnout and dissatisfaction. Her own experiences led her to discover the ways physicians lost autonomy, and how to reclaim their focus on helping patients. She founded Happy Day Health, a boutique physician matchmaking agency to match doctors with well run, physician-owned private practices where they can avoid burnout and enjoy practicing medicine again.
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Access the Show Transcript Here
[0:00] But it was a very, very scary decision because I had finally left.
I’d done this thing that I’d been wanting to do for years.
It’s very scary to leave medicine. And here I am going back into, I thought, am I going back to my abuser? Am I going back to something that made me so unhappy before?
What am I thinking?
I’m so fortunate I finally got out. What am I doing?
[0:23] There are times in our lives that change the way we see the world.
Navigating these challenges can take insight, trusted confidants or even a coach.
Let’s explore those moments.
In this companion podcast to RX for Success, we will discover ways to learn, and write our own success stories together.
I’m Dr. Dale Waxman, a physician coach with MD Coaches, and this is Life Changing Moments.
[0:52] Today we’re talking with Dr. Laura Hochman. Dr. Hockman was featured on RX for Success episode 112.
[1:00] In that conversation with Dr. Cook, she recounted a life-changing moment.
[1:06] And I wanted to bring her back and explore that some more.
Before we get into revisiting that time, a bit of background about Dr. Hockman.
Dr. Hockman is a family medicine physician in Austin, Texas, and the founder of Happy Day Health, a physician matchmaking agency to match doctors with well-run, physician-owned private practices where they can avoid burnout and enjoy practicing medicine again.
Laura, welcome back to the MD Coach’s family of programs and to life-changing moments.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. You know, you and I were connecting before we started recording. We have this Texas connection. I was on faculty in Galveston.
I understand that you were a med student there.
[1:48] I was, yep. I was there during hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.
[1:53] Wow, did you actually stay on the island during that time or did you evacuate?
No, we evacuated.
Wow, all three of those, my goodness. Wow, that did not happen well, Azur. We had to prepare to evacuate but that didn’t happen. But that’s part of Galveston living.
Definitely adds to the adventure.
[2:12] Welcome again. So as I mentioned a moment ago, in listening to that conversation, you had with Randy about your path into healthcare, you were describing a time when you were between jobs right after leaving one due to burnout and some other contractual issues as I recall.
Instead of seeking a job right away, you decided to spend the summer with your children and you said, boy, that was the best summer ever. And then you found a position, but you also found yourself in some turmoil over whether to take it.
So what I’d like to do is just to play that segment and then we’ll talk about how you worked your way through your decision making. How does that sound? Sounds good.
[2:57] And then another job, I feel like it fell into my lap where this recruiter approached me and I went to interview and I remember leaving the interview, with this gut feeling of don’t do this, like, absolutely don’t do this.
You’re just getting yourself right back into it. You finally got out of medicine after thinking about it and burning out.
Then my brain kicked in and said, well, but this is the perfect job.
I’m going to have time with patients. I don’t need to deal with insurance companies.
This job is exactly what.
[3:32] I’m trying to, you know, it’s exactly not what I’m trying to avoid. It is what I’m trying, why I got into medicine. But I had so much apprehension because of what I had, felt before that I didn’t know if I even wanted to take what looked to be incredible.
[3:50] So, Laura, just as hearing that again, any kind of reflections as you hear that again, just to kind of start us off?
Gosh, it just absolutely brought me back to that moment. It was so interesting to hear it back to myself and feel those feelings again and think about where I was then and where I am today.
And I’m an entirely different person. And it wasn’t even that long ago.
Yeah. So I wonder if we can kind of, you know, it’s great that you’re back there.
What I’m interested in is, you know, it sounded like it had, you know, in your mind, it had all the elements of job satisfaction that your previous one that you were, that you left did not and on paper it kind of looked great but you were hesitant so what was that about as you think about it? When I had left my prior position I didn’t plan on going back to practicing medicine I had no plans on going back I had left because you know I had this feeling that the state of medicine was in disarray medicine was not going in a good direction I didn’t want to be a part of medicine which was just falling apart and it was absolutely not making me happy, nor anyone that was around me, because when you’re burned out, your whole life suffers.
So this job really fell into my lap. I mean, I got a message from an internal recruiter from this company and it had all the elements of like, well, I’ll at least look at it.
[5:15] But it was a very, very scary decision because I had finally left what I, you know, I’d done this thing that I’d been wanting to do for years.
It’s very scary to leave medicine.
And here I am going back into, you know, I thought, am I going back to my abuser?
Am I going back to something that made me so unhappy before? What am I thinking?
I’m so fortunate I finally got out. What am I doing?
It, you know, just to use a term, it sounds to me like to sort of the interview process, something got triggered for you.
[5:46] Yeah, it was definitely all the old things that came up with medicine of never being done, the fear of hurting someone mistakenly, or even bad reviews on Yelp of, I’m trying to hurt someone and here they are complaining that I don’t wanna give them a medication.
[6:05] That has more potential for harm than good, or all the things that come up and being the first one to drop my kid at daycare and the last one to pick her up, and all those things that came up, and being cold when I’m at my kid’s birthday party because I’m on cold that weekend, or all the things that we have to deal with in medicine.
All of those feelings were like, what am I getting myself back into?
Right, and you said in the podcast you had the best summer ever, which of course there was none of that. You were just coming off the heels of that experience.
[6:38] Oh yeah, I even remember thinking, is this the honeymoon period or is not working really this great?
[6:46] I got to be with my kids. We went to the park. We went to, they had a kids symphony orchestra. I would take them to that. I, you know, it was, it was fun. Like I got to be with my kids and we went away for these little trips where we didn’t even go anywhere. It was middle of nowhere.
I’d find a little bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere.
We would just stay and be together. And it was, it was incredible.
It was really, really fun.
Mm-hmm. And you said this kind of fell into your lap. Somebody had reached out to connect with you about that position.
Yeah. I mean, I think of it as falling into my lap. And on the other hand, I also think, well, I was somehow open to it.
So, you know, things can fall into your lap, but it’s what you do with it that counts.
So, you know, it’s funny because I never respond to recruiters ever.
I normally just delete or unsubscribe or stop or whatever it is.
And this one I didn’t and I responded.
[7:39] So I say it fell into my lap, but I mean, that’s what recruiters do is they message you about jobs you don’t want. That’s what a recruiter’s job is.
But I was open enough to it to respond and look into it.
[7:52] Yeah. So say a little bit more about you were open, somewhat open to it. Say more about that.
I think the fear in me when I left medicine was I’ve just given up all these years of training.
I trained into my 30s and what am I giving up? So I think a little part of that was brought out when this recruiter messaged me and said, hey, there’s this position at this big company, Wellness Center.
And I looked into a little bit and thought, what have I got to lose?
What it sparked in me was more of, can I make a change in this big company?
Help them be healthier, help them?
And so I think maybe the part of me that enjoys being a part of people’s wellness really just came out. And so I looked into it.
[8:43] So that’s great. So there was this, I think also in the podcast you had said that you’re the kind of person that is not somebody who sits by when things need to change.
And so there’s that piece also about just sort of leaving it all together would not have been totally fulfilling for you either is kind of what I read into that.
Did I get that right? Yeah, absolutely. Hi, I’m Rhonda Crowe, founder and CEO for MD Coaches.
Here on RX for Success, we interview a lot of great medical professionals on how they grew their careers, how they overcame challenges, and how they handle day-to-day work.
[9:30] I really hope you’re getting a lot of great information. But if you’re looking for an answer to a specific problem, management or administration challenge, or if you’re feeling just a bit burnt out like maybe you chose the wrong career, well then there’s a faster way to get the help you need.
No, it’s not counseling. It’s coaching. Rx for Success is produced by MD Coaches, a team of physicians who have been where you are.
I know you’re used to going it alone, but you don’t have to.
Get the support you need today. Visit us at MyMDCoaches.com to schedule your, complimentary consultation. Again, that’s MyMDCoaches.com because you’re not in this alone.
[10:16] Dr. Darrell Bock We’ll get back to our interview in just a moment, but right now I want to tell you a little bit about Physician Outlook. If you haven’t discovered this remarkable magazine, please do so very soon. It was created by physicians, for physicians, to showcase the intersection between clinical and non-clinical interests.
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And now let’s get back to today’s interview.
[11:25] So let’s kind of go back to those moments when you said, boy, there’s just all kinds of red flags here. I’m getting triggered all over the place. And then you said, and I took it anyway. So what, went into that decision making? Well, I was very fortunate. The position was PRN. So there was a part of me that said if I don’t like it no big deal I can leave and and it’s funny because this PRN position then a couple weeks later turned into another permanent position at a sister clinic for this company but I decided to take it because I felt that this is great I can work one day a month I can work one day a week I can make it fit my life as I needed to I don’t have to give up time with the kids. And so there was that fear of I don’t want to go back, but there was enough of me that thought if I don’t like it, I can leave. If I don’t take this opportunity, I’ll never know what I’m missing. And there was still that part of me that is not, I’m not like that anymore, but there was still that part of me that thought I’m just a physician. I have no other skills. You know, I think that’s something that a lot of us in medicine feel is I’m just a doctor. I can’t do anything else. And so, you know, I had thought, you know, I’m a doctor, I don’t have anything else as far as work or income or skills. I’m gonna go use my skills, which are amazing skills. That’s really cool to be a doctor. But, you know.
[12:51] In that summer, I had thought, what else can I do? Can I, you know, help? I came up with all sorts of ideas for, you know, helping individuals with their wellness or helping physicians with some sort of advocacy and all of those things. I had, thought I can’t do that I’m just a doctor. So you know that played into the decision a little bit but also the fear of jumping back into medicine was, squashed quite a bit by the fact that it was PRN. If I didn’t like it it’s no big deal I can do it just enough to keep my skills up but not enough that I burn out again. So all of that fear was taken away in the fact that it was PRN and and I’m glad I did because I remember driving home my first day I called my mom on the phone and I said, oh my goodness mom, this is what medicine needs to be. This is why I went into medicine. It was so much fun. I had time with patients. I went there, I saw patients, I charted and I left with all my work done. It was fun and the patients were awesome and, it was really enjoyable being there and being a doctor again.
Yeah, thank you for that. And I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that.
You know, what you were at the tail end of this.
The parts of your job that are professionally fulfilling, can you say a little bit more about that?
You know, some of it was you were saying to your mother, this is fun. What about that?
What about that maybe in contrast what it had been before.
[14:18] Yeah, the you know the parts of my job that I love the most are people I love people love people so being around the patients was amazing they were there smart and.
[14:31] Fun to be around and I love joking with my patients that we talked around a little bit and we you know I got to know them.
You know within a the confines of a 30-minute visit but I got to know what their issues were and I got to know a little bit about them as human beings and what Makes them tick and we even talked a little bit about you know, some crazy things that they did in their spare time Which is super fun And you know, I had enough time that it wasn’t stressful that I could get to know the people that I was working with a little Bit so got to know the doctors. They were great. No one was stressed out. It was a wonderful culture Everyone enjoyed being there. We were laughing and joking, not in a way that got in the way of your work. You know, I don’t like being in a place that it’s a work hard, work hard. I like being in a place that is work hard, play hard. So, you, know, I felt open to say to people, hey, you know, it was my first day. I didn’t know how to use the EMR. How do I do this or how do I do that or, you know, and it, was exciting because it was nurses rooming the patients. I’d say, oh, I need, blood drawn. And they’re like, okay, tell me what you need drawn. And I was like, oh, Okay, it was very efficient. So I got to really enjoy the people on both the patient side and the.
[15:39] Colleague side and the medicine was fun and interesting. I did I enjoy procedures So I got to do a couple of procedures I did you know, some of the things were you know, just fun easy medicine some were more challenging where I got to use my brain It’s fun. Like medicine is cool when you get to help that many people in one day It’s cool, but you know the things in medicine that we don’t enjoy just, Sack all that enjoyment out of medicine. Yeah, it sounds like there was a.
[16:08] Place where you got to be fully what you imagined for yourself as a family physician, And and a lot of those barriers that were that made things.
[16:19] Unpleasant were we’re just not present there. Yeah, absolutely I mean, it’s incredible what time with patients will do you know, there’s a something that came up for me as you’re talking in our specialty in family medicine, a colleague says our specialty is relationships.
And you had the time to have relationship.
[16:37] Yeah, I want to go back back just a little bit. You were saying earlier that at the time you were, you had sort of this belief that I’m a physician, I can only do physician things.
That’s changed over time. Can you say more about that?
Yes. We spend so long learning to be a doctor and we get all of the decisions kind of beat out of us when we just have to, you know, we take the MCAT and we go to medical school, then we do our rotations and then we you know it’s a very set course all the decision-making is taken out of our hands you know it’s like a muscle that you have to build and so we spent you know I spent until I was 30 years old learning to be a physician. I put my energy into nothing else I didn’t start a business I didn’t you know work in consulting or as a receptionist or any of the other things that you could do and I felt way I liked medicine but when I came to thinking what else can I do everything else was well I can’t do that or you know when I had left my job and I had thought well maybe I’ll do lobbying and I was like well I can’t lobby I don’t know how to talk to people or I had thought maybe I’ll do physician coaching in contract negotiations and then I was like well no one wants to listen to me.
[17:54] And then I thought you know I’d love to teach people how to just be healthier so go to their home and I came up with this incredible idea where I go to their home and teach them to cook and have guests that give them little samples of yoga and all these other things.
And then I thought, well, I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to start a business.
I don’t know how to market. I don’t know how to put a program together. All I know how to do is be a doctor. So all the ideas I came up with basically came down to, but I’m just a doctor. I don’t know how to do any of that. And this path that took me where I am today, I ended up starting my own business, which is so far from what I ever imagined I would do, it’s led me to realize I can do anything.
I don’t need to just be a doctor. I mean, not just, being a doctor is wonderful, but there’s so many more things that I can do.
I just have to let go of that fear and I can still have the fear.
I just say, okay, I’m afraid of this and then I still go do it.
It’s very freeing to know, gosh, I can do anything. I can consult.
Have things you know people actually want to hear I mean look at me I’m on a pod cause people hopefully want to hear what I have to say and this is very different than how I used to feel and I think a part of it is just letting go of that fear not necessarily not being afraid but not letting that fear stop.
[19:15] You. So that’s it. I just go in the face of fear and just go towards it.
Yeah, in the earlier podcast you talked about bravery and is that an example of that for you?
[19:26] Yeah, oh hundred percent. Absolutely. And that was definitely a muscle that I consciously.
[19:31] Strengthened. I knew that I was letting my fears stop me and I consciously just started with something easy and I mean, I worked my way up to where I am today.
Yeah, so there’s this sort of of noticing that there’s some fear, but going ahead and moving through that and learning from that anyway.
Are there some moments that you can think of as you look back where it shifted for you?
Where you’re there now, but what were some of the moments that allowed you to shift your thinking?
Do you have some recollection of that?
It was a lot of little moments, some bigger that got me to where I am today.
A part of it was I know that my fear stops me from doing things.
And I always had this, you know, the way I define bravery and courage is to not let fear stop you from doing things. So you can be afraid and you do it anyway.
That is how I define bravery.
I mean, I just started with flying. I have a fear of flying.
I get very, very nervous.
And every time I get on an airplane and there’s turbulence, I freak out.
And every time I think, oh my gosh, I should have taken something.
Why don’t I take something? And part of it also, well then I have a fear of taking medications, so there’s that too.
[20:50] But at the end of the flight, I think, gosh, I made it. Like, I did it. I got through it.
The turbulence was fine. I was terrified during the turbulence and I made it through.
And then I worked through, you know, I have a hobby that I enjoy tremendously, but it’s scary to me.
So I do gymnastics and every time I do a flip, I have to, you know, I feel this intense rush of fear.
I’m not 20 years old and here I am doing gymnastics, but you know, it seems so silly, but every time I go to gymnastics, I think I faced my fear.
I did it, I was afraid, I did a flip and I did it anyway. And that’s how it started.
And then, then I took a position in this company that then turned permanent, where I started as the physician at the practice that was just starting.
I had ideas for what to do when the ideas actually happened.
Like I’d say, hey, let’s do this. And they made it happen, which then gave me a little bit of confidence.
And then, you know, then I became the lead physician and.
[21:49] Practice really flourished. Like we had the highest employee engagement scores in the whole company.
We had the best patient satisfaction scores in the company. We had the best metrics. Like, it was awesome. We did so well. And I think that built up my courage to be able to do things that I felt were right to know that sometimes they’re not going to go well and that’s okay because there’s some wins and there’s some not wins. And the nurse that I was working with at the time, we worked together as a dyad, she would say, you know, I’d say to her at the beginning when I first became the lead physician.
[22:21] Gosh, I really wish we could do XYZ and she, her answer to me was, you’re, you can make that happen. You’re in charge.
And so, you know, there was that, oh my gosh, like there was this very definite mindset shift of, oh, I can do that.
[22:36] And I did. And so, you know, that was probably the most pivotal moment when the two of us were sitting together and she said to me, you can make that happen.
And I realized, oh my goodness, I can make that happen. I can.
So that was probably the biggest shift.
And there were all sorts of other fears that I had to throw away when I was starting my business.
But every day is a fear. I still get nervous speaking to people, surprisingly.
And every time that I would speak to a person, I mean, my business is entirely about speaking to people never met before. And so every day was terrifying and every day I felt like I have no idea what I’m doing. And so it was very empowering to get to this point now where now I know what I don’t know before I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. And I was just, I felt like I was floundering every day, but I just kept doing it and I think the…
Just the act of doing it every day was so empowering of I’m not giving up. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m not giving up. So there were lots of little moments and big moments that got me to.
[23:45] This point of forget fear. If I’m scared, great. Listen to what I’m scared of and see what I can do about it. Laura, that’s quite an inspiration. I think that your description of courage and bravery and aware of what you are afraid of and here you are, I mean, that’s very impressive what you just said, you get scared talking to people and yet that’s a lot of what you do. It’s what you have done and what you do. And you do it brilliantly, by the way. You seem very, very comfortable and relaxed. And I think that’s a really important message, not just what you do specifically, but just facing your fears, actually becoming aware of them. As you so beautifully articulated, we as physicians kind of go along this path. And because we go along this path and there’s sort of or this straight line, the linear path, we tend to not be aware of what else is open to us.
And we sort of only know this one thing and it gets very scary to, there’s a whole other world out there, it can get very scary.
So you just did a nice job of telling us a little bit about, recognizing that that’s a limiting belief.
I can do things and your nurse had to share it with you. Your nurse said, wait a minute, you’re the one in charge.
Like, wow, I didn’t even really realize that.
That’s awesome. Well, thank you very much for that. Beautiful story and as we’re wrapping that up, as you look back at that time of your life or any of the times since.
[25:12] In addition to all the wonderful things you’ve shared with us so far, Are there any other learnings?
[25:17] That you want to impart to our listeners about your journey along the way?
Yeah, I would say, you know, I think it’s so important to us as physicians in the state of medicine that we’re in not to give up. We all went into medicine because there’s something in it that appeals to us. And you know, what I see a lot of is doctors who are so unhappy in their current positions but then they finally take that step of leaving their position to find another one, but they jump right back into the same environment. So I would just love it if doctors, you know, really before making that leap, which is a big one, to take stock of what it is that they don’t like and what they want to change before then finding their next position because that’s.
[26:05] How change happens. If we all just go from, you know, the same thing to the same thing, then we’re we’re not gonna have that change in our own lives.
And ultimately, we’re all kind of leaving medicine early, which is so unfortunate.
So really, I would say, you know, a lot of it is please be aware of what it is that’s bugging you in your life and what it is that you can do to change it.
Great advice. I really appreciate that. So Dr. Laura Hockman, thank you very much for joining us back with our MD Coaches family of productions and podcasts for Life Change in Moments.
Really appreciate you being here with us today.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed talking with Dr. Laura Hochman.
[26:51] And here are my takeaways from this episode. One, when a new opportunity opens up, if fear starts creeping in, check and see if it is due to being triggered by old negative experiences in a similar setting.
Number two, it’s okay to face those fears. can be defined as not letting fear stop you from doing the things that are right for you.
[27:16] Check and see if limiting beliefs are holding you back. For example, are you thinking that you can only do one kind of job with all of your education?
Number four, when taking risks in unknown territory, know that sometimes things are not going to go well and that’s okay.
Finally, Dr. Hockman discussed that when doing things one is passionate about, even if it is not going well, keep doing it anyway.
As she said, I’m not giving up.
[27:47] Well, this last quote kind of reminds me of the concept of grit.
Grit is defined as a personality to trait possessed by individuals who demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal, despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions.
I think all physicians had to have possessed grit at some point to get through pre-med, med school and residency, if not all of those. For many of us, when things aren’t going the way we hoped, anticipated, or planned for, it may be time to rekindle our gritty selves and take steps to create, a more fulfilled self.
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