Physician Entrepreneurship as an Antidote to Burnout

Back to General

Physician Entrepreneurship As An Antidote To Burnout

I was recently at a conference filled with physician entrepreneurs when I noticed something very interesting. 

So many physicians I know are burned out. Many have cut back on their clinical hours while some have completely left medicine.

But not in this room. 

This room was filled with physician entrepreneurs, and I was amazed by how happy these physicians were.

Now you might be thinking, “Of course they’re happy. They have a successful business which allowed them to quit medicine”. In reality, most of the physicians I met at that conference still practice clinical medicine. 

Or you might think, “I’d be happy too if I were making as much money as they’re making”. It was true that some of the physicians in the room have very successful businesses, but there were many physicians there who are not making a lot of money yet. 

One thing I’ve learned in my own entrepreneurial journey is that making money as an entrepreneur is not a given.

It’s very different than medicine. From the time we started med school, we were almost guaranteed to graduate, get into residency, finish residency, and land a financially stable job. 

In entrepreneurship, nothing is guaranteed. You can spend hours and hours on something, get to the point where you think it’s amazing, only to launch it and watch it fail. You can sink thousands and thousands of dollars into making your entrepreneurial dream a reality, only to lose it all. 

That’s just the way entrepreneurship is. You accept these risks when you decide to become an entrepreneur.

Yet, in a room full of physician entrepreneurs, I saw more joy and excitement from them than most doctors I’ve been around the last few years.

Make no mistake, these physicians are no different from you. They have also suffered from burnout and felt the burden of increasing administrative tasks, patient volumes, and expectations. They also struggle with balancing work and family. 

Yet, physician after physician had a similar story. They were burned out and ready to leave medicine. Then, they became an entrepreneur, their burnout decreased, and their happiness increased.   

That’s when it hit me. The reason so many physicians in this room had recovered from burnout was because they are entrepreneurs.

It got me thinking about my own career as a physician. To be honest, I hated residency. Pretty much from the beginning, I decided I needed to find something else to do so I wouldn’t have to take care of patients.

That’s when I found quality improvement. I fell in love with it and did a fellowship in quality improvement. During that time, I surprised myself by falling in love with medicine again.

I found that by the time my work week ended, I was excited to get back to QI. Then, once my administrative days were over, I couldn’t wait to get back to seeing patients. 

I didn’t really think about it at the time, but that ability to switch between clinical medicine and administrative medicine prevented me from burning out for many years. 

Then the pandemic started, and like every physician I know, it took a toll. My mental health suffered and I was no longer happy.

In the midst of that experience, I decided to become a life coach and start my own coaching business.

My coaching business has been a life-saver for me in so many ways. One of the main benefits it’s brought me is that it gives me something else to look forward to. 

When I’m at work, no matter how hard it is, I think about how much longer I have until I get home so I can work on my business and coach clients. 

It’s the most amazing feeling. Having a business brings me so much satisfaction. It allows me to use a completely different part of my brain than medicine. It’s fun, I get to be creative, I get to be in charge, and I have 100% autonomy. No one tells me what to do, and if I make a mistake, no one gets hurt. 

There are a lot of effective strategies out there to help with burnout, but one strategy I never see mentioned is to become an entrepreneur. Not because it will bring you guaranteed wealth, but because being your own boss and creating your own business changes you for the better.

Even when clinic is hard. Even when the hospital is overflowing with patients. Even when medicine doesn’t bring you the fulfillment you thought it would. Your business is always there, waiting to give you the break you need.

Trina Dorrah, MD, MPH

Dr. Dorrah is a hospitalist and binge eating life coach. She can be reached at:

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 16, 2022 5:53 pm

Interesting way to keep you excited about your work and what you do each day.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Send this to a friend