Dr. James R. Fedich, DC Chiropractor, Coach, Speaker, & Podcast Host

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How to avoid job burnout in practice and retire on your own terms


Follow these tips on how to avoid job burnout to extend your career and take charge of retirement

Burnout is one of if not the largest problems in the American health care system. Chiropractors have only a fraction of the burnout issues that medical doctors have, and yet they are still in peril. The question of how to avoid job burnout and the early exit of many MDs and DCs may end up crippling the health care system.

Poor care and early retirement

If a doctor is tired, stressed or worried about payroll, they will not or cannot give the best patient care available. Burnout also causes early retirement for many doctors, including chiropractors.

This is a huge loss to patients, as there are fewer doctors, less appointments, longer wait times and more. It is even a larger problem to the doctor, as several studies have shown that doctors in general tie a lot of their worth into patient care. Which makes sense, as if someone is a doctor for the right reasons, they are in it to help patients. Generally all specialties have a hard time with retirement as they lose this connection and their sense of worth by not treating patients any longer. This can be a tremendous psychological loss to doctors.

Early retirement can also be devastating financially, as even a year of early retirement can dramatically affect a doctor’s net worth and ability to live a comfortable retirement.

How to avoid job burnout

Especially in a chiropractic practice, time off can dramatically affect patient volume and income. In a solo doctor practice, a one-week vacation can take an estimated 12 weeks to build back up to original volume, and that is a tough pill to swallow.

If you are just starting out and trying to build your practice, take a three-day weekend every 90 days. Try to get out of town, out of the clinic and get a break. This might not sound like much, but it can be amazing.

What we don’t understand about time off and vacation is that anticipation is actually what’s most rewarding about time off. In fact, a 2010 study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life found that vacationers are actually most happy before the vacation. What does that mean? Our brains are hard-wired for anticipation, so it is naturally looking forward to something. But what makes it most important as a chiropractor is it gives us something to get through the tough days and weeks. If you are having a horrible day at the clinic, just knowing you have this day off in a few weeks or months makes it more tolerable.

So, step one, take a long weekend every 90 days. Get out of town, borrow a friend’s cabin — patients will be happy to lend you a place, or just get a cheap motel.

For the experienced DC

When you have grown the practice a little more, turn those three-day weekends into four-day weekends. So now we are taking eight days off in addition to holidays. Why not a whole week?

As I mentioned earlier, a week off can set the practice back 12 weeks.

This can work until you add associates. Next step would be the four-day weekends and then the whole week off. Once you get multiple associates and have the practice running like a well-oiled machine, you will have more time off than you need.

Plan, then plan some more

There are many more details and ways to take a break. But, the key point to this article is two things:

Schedule in advance — The vacation schedule should be blocked in advance for the whole year. If you don’t schedule it, something will fill in — plus we talked about how the anticipation is the reward for days off.

Make it regular — Ninety days is going to go by very fast, and if you always have something to look forward to, it makes those tough days much more digestible. Of course it would be nice to take a week off every month, but that will severely limit practice growth if a doctor doesn’t have multiple associates. There are many plans for how to avoid job burnout, and this is one way to make sure we are refreshed and able to give our patients the care they deserve. Enjoy and make sure to take some breaks!

JAMES R. FEDICH, DC, owns a large multidisciplinary practice in northern New Jersey. He is also the author of “Secrets of a Million Dollar Practice” and host of a popular chiropractic podcast, Dr. J’s Path to Success. To find out more or to contact Dr. J, visit drjamesfedich.com.