It was a dead-end job. Everything was the same, every day. Marquette, Mich.-based family physician Jennifer Dehlin, MD, saw her life stretched out before her and wasn’t excited about her role as a physician. She was only in her 30s.
Dehlin didn’t realize it at the time, but she was burned out. She had worked at the same hospital and small clinic for seven years. And she was involved in various committees at the hospital-based practice, including one focused on process improvement. Still, while she continued to suggest improvements, Dehlin discovered that she was powerless to change anything.
For example, no matter how many times she told the scheduler that she’d need more time with a particular 90-year-old patient, nothing changed. There was never enough time scheduled, which meant the patient’s appointments always ran over and that meant she was playing catch up all day. Looking back today, Dehlin describes herself as “constantly frustrated” back then.
Setting up her own practice
Dehlin and her husband, also a physician, wanted to stay in Marquette, where they had started a family. The physician couple had discussed starting their own practice, but both were bound by two-year non-compete contracts.
She was surprised when her hospital’s chief financial officer told her he wouldn’t enforce the non-compete contract. She and her husband gave 90 days’ notice that they would quit their jobs.
The Dehlins hired four employees from her former practice. That team was charged with building the practice while the couple finished their work commitments. The start-up costs for the practice were fueled by a business loan, she says. That was in 2016.
Dehlin’s chosen title at the practice — in addition to physician — is “director of fun,” and that means she’s often organizing 5K races for staff members to run together. What keeps her engaged is the ability to serve her patients, while creating a great workplace for her team.
“I really feel good about my employees having a good job. I’m very careful to make sure no one feels like they’re at a dead end…I look for ways to make sure that our staff feels they can grow and advance individually,” says Dehlin. In addition, practice employees earn higher salaries than in their previous jobs, and they receive holiday bonuses and take part in profit-sharing and a 401K plan, she adds.