Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve worked yourself to the bone putting yourself through university and medical school, only to find yourself at the point of exhaustion to improve the physical and mental health of others. You constantly feel overworked and stressed out from the highly demanding nature of your work.
Your workplace considers self-compassion to be a weakness and values perfectionism, causing you to feel invisible, isolated, and unsupported. You constantly come home from work feeling dissatisfied, frustrated, and even angry with your superiors, your colleagues, and yourself. Losing heart in your work is even starting to impact your personal relationships.
Unfortunately for many female healthcare workers, an additional layer of complexity can arise. Working in a male-dominant environment, their voices can often go unheard. As a result, they feel unworthy and unseen. For any overwhelmed healthcare worker, however, self-identifying as ‘doctor’ above all else can result in a loss of their sense of self, disconnecting them from their passion for medicine.
Becoming emotionally and physically depleted, your struggle with burnout starts to cast doubt on whether you want to continue with this career path. Yet you tell yourself it’s all worth it just to be able to save a single life. But what about when it comes to saving your own?
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Dr Olivia Lee Ong had once lost her heart in her career. Trapped in a highly analytical job, her heart yearned for creativity. Without the support she needed from the healthcare system, she too felt invisible. Becoming jaded about medicine, and without the passion that used to drive her, Dr Olivia started to feel disconnected from herself.
Pushing those feelings aside, she began to operate on autopilot, whilst inside she felt stuck and lifeless. “I could have died feeling that way,” says Dr Olivia, “and I almost did.”
Flung up into the sky by a car travelling 60 kilometres an hour in late 2008, Dr Olivia’s world was forever changed. Raced to the hospital to undergo emergency spinal surgery, Dr Olivia had lost the use of her legs, becoming paralysed from my waist down. “I was told that I would be wheelchair-bound for life,” she says.
“But one night two years later, I was lying in bed wondering how drastically my life had changed, how much I’d lost, but also how much I had to gain.” Deciding then and there that she would indeed walk again, Olivia and her husband relocated to the US for her to attend Project Walk, Centre for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery in San Diego.
Never giving in, after two agonising years Olivia was finally able to functionally walk again with two sticks and a limp. “My spinal cord injury taught me a very important life lesson: self-compassion,” states Dr Olivia. Returning home to Melbourne, Australia in 2012, Dr Olivia resumed her studies, advancing her career as a dual-trained rehabilitation medicine and specialist pain medicine physician.
Stepping up as a clinical leader at work using her compassionate leadership skills, Dr Olivia soon found that the combination of living with a spinal cord injury, motherhood, full-time work, and studying for fellowship exams had exhausted her. “I ignored the warning signs, feeling that burnout was a sign of vulnerability and weakness,” she says. “I just kept pushing through until eventually, it was too much to bear.”
Envisioning a way where she could continue to build her career whilst becoming the leader and mother she had always envisioned herself being, Dr Olivia drew from the determination she had applied learning how to walk again and applied it to transforming her life. “I’ve seen many of my medical colleagues burn out, living with constant fatigue and overwhelm,” Dr Olivia says.
With more than 40% of doctors, and almost 50% of female physicians experiencing burnout, Dr Olivia realised that she could help her medical peers. Rediscovering her passion for her work, Dr Olivia used this to write her debut book, The Heart-Centeredness of Medicine.
“We need more heart-based doctors in medicine,” states Dr Olivia. Dr Olivia now finds purpose as a leadership and career advancement coach for medical doctors, teaching them the same tools that saved her life.
Learning heart-based tools allows you to rediscover your self-worth, and start living the heart-centred life you truly deserve. “I want to help you find your spark of joy and creativity outside medicine,” Dr Olivia declares. “This is my driving force. This is my WHY.”
The Heart Centred Doctor is a place where emotionally and physically exhausted doctors can feel safe, reconnect with themselves, and discover the many benefits mindful self-compassion can bring. To learn more from Dr Olivia, contact her here, or to secure your copy of The Heart-Centeredness of Medicine, click here.