Collaborative Transformation

Dr. Cohn speaking to physicians on Dealing with Disruptive Change: The Power of Transformation

Dr. Cohn speaking to physicians on Dealing with Disruptive Change: The Power of Transformation

Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking at the SEAK Conference on Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians on dealing with disruptive change.  Disruptive change, as described by Prof. Christensen*, refers to an innovation that applies a different set of values, displaces an established technology, and creates new markets and value networks.  Examples include the computer and telecom industries and healthcare, with minute clinics and digital imaging.  On a personal dimension, disruptive change occurs with divorce, job loss, illness, and death.  However, some disruptive changes can be joyous, such as the birth of a new child.

As I wrote in Better Communication for Better Care: Mastering Physician-Administrator Collaboration, emotional exhaustion, feelings of depersonalization (decreased empathy), and low personal achievement are common in healthcare professionals.  These three domains of the Maslach burnout inventory are the antithesis of engagement, energy, involvement, and efficacy.

Standard intrapersonal recommendations to combat burnout include:

  • Cultivating a sense of perspective and humor
  • Vacation
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Seeking counseling when feeling the need to treat symptoms of burnout with alcohol or other habit-forming substances

Standard interpersonal recommendations to treat burnout include:

  • Respecting colleagues’ nights and weekends off duty
  • Sharing feelings with others who have related a stressful event or multiple events
  • Showing concern when colleagues exhibit symptoms of burnout and helping them obtain assistance before patient care suffers

I wonder if the above recommendations treat symptoms rather than causes. The poet Mary Sarton wrote:

There is only one real deprivation, and that is not to be able to give one’s gifts…
The gift turned inward becomes a heavy burden, even a kind of poison
It is as though the flow of life were backed up.

Transformation reflects a major change in form, function, or nature. To me, transformation results from overcoming self-limiting beliefs and taking action on stretch goals at the same time. Transformation is a way to deal with disruptive change proactively rather than feeling that change is done to us rather than by us.

Conferences that allow physicians to bond with peers can help them get back in touch with the reasons that they chose healthcare careers and help to decrease career dissatisfaction and burnout.

As always, I welcome your input to improve healthcare collaboration where you work.

Kenneth H. Cohn

© 2011, all rights reserved


I have not received any compensation for writing this content. I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.

*Christensen CM, Bohmer R, Kenagy J. (2000). “Will Disruptive Innovations Cure Health Care?” Harvard Business Review, September 2000.

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