The X-ray Beam: Physician Zen
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Welcome to another installment of the X-ray Beam series.
Physician Zen is one of the more recent physician bloggers to enter the scene and, like the name suggests, concentrates on creating a Zen-like workplace to increase productivity and hopefully stave off burnout.
I had the pleasure of meeting Physician Zen at the 2019 FinCon event and developed a great friendship as a result of it.
Physician Zen’s skills with YouTube tutorials is quite impressive and worthy of checking out.
Physician Zen has also put the most impressive and comprehensive list of Physician Bloggers out there that I have found.
Without further ado, Physician Zen is gowned up and laying on the uncomfortable X-ray table ready for us to take a look at his inner workings…
Thank you so much Xrayvsn.
It truly is an honor to be able to be under the X-ray interviewed, even though I do like ultrasound better because of the decreased radiation.
I just want to say you were one of the first people to support me on my blogging journey.
It is because of people like you who are so genuine and encouraging that I love this community and the reason I want to continue writing and creating every day.
[Thank you for the kind words Physician Zen.
Just for that, I am going to swap out the gonadal shield I typically use for the good one.]
If you can please give a brief introduction of yourself (age, medical specialty, years of medical practice).
I’m currently in my Mid 30’s and finished medical school over 10 years ago.
I completed an Emergency Medicine residency followed by fellowships in Critical Care, Point of Care Ultrasound, and Trans-esophageal Echocardiography.
I am an Associate Professor at an academic center on the West Coast.
My main research and teaching interests have been in Point of Care Ultrasound and promoting Personal Productivity among medical students, residents, and attendings.
When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?
Were there any influential people or events that made you embark on this career path?
I started thinking about medical school when I was in high school.
There was a physician couple in my Tae Kwon Do school who introduced me to medicine and let me shadow them in their pediatric and anesthesia practice.
I grew up working at the outdoor swap meet (i.e. flea market) with my parents since I was 5 years old all the way through college.
My parents actually still work at the swap meet.
I am fortunate to have learned work ethics from my parents and am fortunate to have met other people willing to guide me to becoming a physician.
What were some of the deciding factors that led into choosing the medical specialty of Emergency Medicine?
Were there any other specialties that you considered?
I was actually going to go into Anesthesia and had my entire application ready (including letters of recs).
I changed my career choice last minute to Emergency Medicine in August of my 4th year of medical school after I did an Emergency Medicine Sub-internship.
If you had to do it all over again, would you choose the same medical profession/specialty?
I love Emergency Medicine.
If I only did straight community Emergency Medicine, I’m not sure how much that would fit my personality.
However, doing fellowships in Critical Care and Ultrasound have given me opportunities to work and teach in different types of environments.
I love spreading my time across all of these areas.
I feel like all of the fellowships have been synergistic and each one has made me a better physician overall.
If you were not a physician, what alternative career would you have gone into?
My favorite subject in college was Organic Chemistry.
I always thought being a chemistry professor would have been awesome.
I was also heavily involved with Tae Kwon Do when I was in high school and college, going to compete internationally.
At one point in my life I was thinking of opening a Tae Kwon Do studio.
I love the moniker Physician Zen for your website.
What were some of the other names that you considered before going with this one?
It took me a while to think of a name for my blog that would encompass what I would want for it.
I felt like Physician Zen really summarizes where I wanted to be in life where things could be simple, efficient, and fun again.
I got inspired from a book I love called “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds where he teaches people how to create MORE effective presentations by putting LESS on PowerPoint slides.
The “Less is More” idea really resonated with me.
No other name really resonated with me and I can’t think of any other options at the time.
What inspired you to start a blog?
Were there any surprises along the way?
My medical students, residents, and fellow attendings really inspired me to start this blog.
I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve many milestones in my career such as multiple publications, a textbook, academic promotion, and becoming a millionaire.
However, what my trainees and colleagues were really interested in was how I was able to get the results I did in such a stress-free way while being able to maintain a personal life and my health.
I couldn’t find any current resources for healthcare professionals regarding personal productivity to promote wellness and financial independence so that is the main reason I started the blog.
To be in a state of Zen, one must achieve calm attentiveness.
Do you truly feel that this is even possible for a physician in the often chaotic world of medicine, especially in the Emergency Room?
Yes, it can be difficult to be calm and focused in the medical setting.
What I have found however is that there are ways for me to control the “Chaos,” even in the Emergency Department.
Many of the techniques I use for personal productivity are mirrored into my daily work habits as well.
I try to minimize interruptions as much as possible in the ED and delegate things to trainees, nurses, and techs if they are better suited than I am.
For the most part, the physicians’ time is the most limiting thing in our workplace, so I try to focus on doing things that only I am truly the best person at doing.
Otherwise if someone else can do it, then it frees up time for me to be used in the best way possible.
Also batching tasks has created a lot of time in my life and allows me to process things only a few times a day.
I actually “batch” patients at work as well.
For example, when there is some downtime in-between patients, I can “batch” all of my patients on the EMR and run through them with the same process I use in my home life using the five D’s: Delete (discharge), Delegate, Do, Defer, and Document.
This takes only a few minutes but saves hours of time by not missing anything for any of my patients.
That way when I go see a new patient, I am not concerned about missing things on my other patients and I am fully present with the patient that is in front of me.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for achieving Zen in a physician’s workplace?
For sure, it is all of the distractions that we encounter.
It is difficult to focus on one patient, chart, or conversation, when we are constantly being interrupted by things.
I would like to say our medical system is efficient but unfortunately most of us know it is not.
For a reader unfamiliar to your website, what are three posts you are most proud of that they can gain an insight about you and your philosophies?
If readers want to learn more about the basic steps to achieving productivity they can find it on: 12 Steps to Productivity.
The Busy vs Productive Post is one of the most popular post because it shows the stark differences between being busy and not getting any results versus being productive and achieving results with the same amount of time.
The last one is the post on the 80/20 Rule.
This post gives people a glimpse of how the most productive people in the world create time by prioritizing tasks in their life that give the most amount of benefit.
If you had a time machine and could go back to any point in time and change just one thing, what would it be?
Honestly, I wish I had learned about personal productivity much earlier in my life (in high school ideally).
I feel like I lost many years to stress and inefficient work and could have had a great time in college and medical school if I just learned to work smarter.
Rumor has it that you are in the process of authoring a book.
Can you give us a teaser about what your subject is about and the target audience?
Sure, not a surprise, but it is a book on Personal Productivity for Healthcare Professionals.
I write it from a position of a medical student and physician.
I’ve read dozens of personal productivity books and none are really geared towards physicians.
I’ve trialed out every technique that I have encountered and found out what works and doesn’t work.
This book is precisely what works for busy professionals such as ourselves.
It’s truly made for busy professionals though.
It’s ironic because people think they are too busy to implement something like this.
But, in reality, they NEED to focus more on personal productivity BECAUSE they are busy.
But the concepts in there are universal and can be used by anyone.
In fact, many of my readers are having their high school and college children read the materials.
All of the people that have embraced personal productivity have more time compared to their counterparts.
In addition, they are able to get more results with less stress.
All it takes is developing some fundamental habits and maintaining them.
Besides raising a family, what is the biggest non-medical accomplishment you have achieved to date?
I competed professionally in Tae Kwon Do going to international competitions when I was in high school and college.
I was able to win silver medal at one of the competitions.
It was just below the Olympic level but it was quite an experience.
Is there a book, or books, that have made a major impact in your well-being?
The first book that changed my life was Getting Things Done by David Allen.
I don’t recommend it for everyone because it is a long read and after implementing the process for 15 years, I think many things can be simplified for the general public.
The book I am authoring will show the simplest way I know how to have a complete productivity system without over-complicating things.
Can you share with us a hidden talent that most people would be shocked to find out about you?
Not sure if it’s a talent, but I’m really good at thumb wrestling.
I beat all of the jocks in high school and they couldn’t figure out why.
You get to pick one person who is dead and one person who is currently alive to answer any questions you may have.
Who would you choose and why?
Probably my uncle.
He died in his late twenties and I was close to him when I was very young.
He had a tragic accident and died in a fire.
I felt like I didn’t spend enough time with him and wish I could talk to him as adults now.
The topic of physician burnout has been gaining momentum in social media.
Have you experienced burnout in your medical career?
Can being in a state of Zen help a physician avoid burnout?
Yes, burnout is plaguing medicine deeply.
My first experience with burnout was in medical school.
That is the reason I wanted to make a change in my life to not feel the stress of never being “enough.”
I define on my site the state of “Physician Zen” as
“A Clinician’s State of Being Fully Present and Maximally Productive without any Stress.”
I’m not saying I’m at that state, but I’m always trying to find ways of getting to that state each and every day.
It has made me so much more productive, happy, and balanced.
Being in the state of Zen is minimizing all of the things in your life that matter most and focusing on those few things intensely.
After reading dozens of books, this is the recurring theme for all the productivity “gurus” that I have found.
The medical students and physicians that I have mentored have all benefited from trying to achieve Zen in their lives.
This includes students who were failing or actually failed to become some of the top students and residents later on.
This includes burnt out physicians who had thriving and happy careers.
I am a believer.
Let us say you have hit your target number for financial independence.
- a) Continue to practice medicine the way you do now.
- b) Continue to work but reduce clinical workload/eliminate certain components.
- c) Exit medicine completely regardless of age?
Most likely a).
I love my job and have found a great balance in my life.
It’s possible that I may take out certain components, but I am more than content with where I am.
Financial independence to me is a means to having options and the choice to take those options or not.
Again thank you so much for your time answering these questions and being placed under the “X-ray beam.”
I look forward to your continued posts and wish you much success.
If you are interested in checking out previous individuals that were brave enough to expose themselves to the beams of the X-ray, please check them out here.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN