A Glimpse of the Future, and Why You Should Just Start Today

#Startuptruth: I wasn't going to post today, but I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Entrepreneurship is all about ups and downs; facing your worst doubts; and questioning yourself. The startup mentality has helped me understand our thinking in medicine; with our careers; with setbacks and triumphs in life beyond med; and how universal this all is in any journey we're on. 

I've been having a hard time lately. I couldn't work during most of my locum as my hands were so painful and pinched, it was excruciating even to hold my phone or turn a tap, let alone typing up admissions, inserting cannulas and all the other stuff that happens on the wards. I'm pretty sure everyone at work thought I was a softie who couldn't take it (which was a joke; it was busy, but there are way busier and harsher places to work as a doctor!). Luckily I called in sick for the rest of it rather than pushing on through the pain and potentially causing permanent damage. And even then, I hated doing it, because there's this huge stigma in medicine that when you call in sick, you can't just rest in bed; you mentally have to gear up to get well as soon as possible, so you can resume your work and offload the weight that everyone in your team must be feeling because you're unwell. (It was good news that another locum was found quickly.)

So that fear has been playing along for the last few weeks. What if I could never use my hands again? What if I could never play piano, because it was hurting so much when I played even simple things? What if I couldn't type- and most of our work these days involves a significant degree of typing, especially with EMRs, Excels and all being so prevalent now? What if I could never work again?

That led to a huge cry episode the other night. (You weren't expecting that, were you?) You see, I love my work in medicine. I really enjoy it and love seeing the changes in patients from just the tiniest roles we play in their lives. 

But I've longed, longed for so long to share music with the world; to play piano and other instruments and write my songs properly; to produce and touch people through my words and sounds. And even if it never takes off, just the thought of never being able to play piano for myself, ever again, is devastating, like death itself. 

The Medical Startup has been really "meta", as one journalist humorously described it (thank you, Zelwan!), because while I've been interviewing founders; writing up conferences; sharing insights into the medical life to help you on your journey; and creating things in the background; it also has been a way for me to learn about startups; to reflect upon my own startup journey; to teach myself resilience; to face my darkest fears; and to become stronger, more confident; and hopefully, leave something beautiful and helpful for you guys to be inspired by, no matter where I go in life. 

I've finally got the confidence. After three years of blogging, after nearly a lifetime of doodling song ideas; after nearly five years of teaching myself about the fashion industry; as time passes by, it's increasingly apparent that I should have done things yesterday.

Within two hours, I accomplished stuff I'd been dreaming of for years. 

I launched my music YouTube channel, "Louise Teo Music." Just one song. A piano cover of a Prodigy song. (The Prodigy and Keith Flint are inspirations. I was really cut when I heard of Keith's passing.) It already has significant views and Likes and comments (none of them forced from friends or family!). Maybe not significant to you, but huge for me. It was easy to do, it was fun, and I can’t wait to do more.

I launched my Incredible Wearable Instagram, which is a project I've had in my heart for possibly longer than The Medical Startup. It is a small step, but a huge one in my heart. My soul is free. I am no longer bogged down by "what if" and "I should have." Now, it's about being present, and what I can do in the moment. 

And I wrote yesterday's piece on fashion and sustainability, and Legacy Summit.

I am so happy, because it took me countless hours over the years to figure out that I didn't need permission from anyone in or out of medicine to write about fashion and launch my YouTube. I just needed to let myself do it!

I have so much coming up for you. An eBook on locuming. An eCourse on getting started with stuff. Podcasts for both The Medical Startup and Incredible Wearable. And lots, and lots, and lots of music practice, preparation and producing! 

It's true that we should try to focus, and cut out the unnecessary in life, in order to get things done. So I'm going to do that. By cutting out my self-doubt, which is incredibly draining, soul-sapping, and unfortunately, can affect others, even though I don't mean it. 

Thank you if you've read to here; I am going to be blogging more than Instagramming with The Medical Startup again, which is something I've missed!  I would love it if you followed Louise Teo Music and Incredible Wearable on Instagram; and The Medical Startup and Louise Teo Music on YouTube (nothing on The Medical Startup channel yet, but there will be soon!). 

And I hope this post helps you if you've been too scared or stuck to do something you've held dear to your heart, too. Please start today! You won't believe how liberating it is and how much confidence you'll gain, and how much you'll learn. 

Doctors Want To Be Innovative, But They Don’t Know How

First published June 20, 2016

 

Since embarking on this journey, I’ve been fortunate to explore innovation in medicine and learn what makes a medical entrepreneur, by talking to people first-hand outside of hospitals and clinical environments.

From working full-time in hospitals, I know first-hand what it’s like to want to create change, but not know how to. The constraints of protocols, hierarchies, specialty college milestones, and expectations of supervisors- not to mention full-time rosters- they all exist for safety and for high-quality medical training. I value my time in that world like nothing else. It made me into the doctor and person I am today.

Yet, I had to forcibly step away in order to figure out my odd journey.

Looking up at the possibilities. Gaudi built his vision, which millions enjoy today. Credit: The Medical Startup

 

Medicine is a long road, signposted by those milestones I mentioned earlier. You graduate from med school. You start Internship. You score your first Resident job in the field you want to enter. You gain entry into the specialty college of your choice. You survive your first day as a Registrar. You pass your college exams. You become an Advanced Trainee. Then you’re a Fellow.

Then, one day, you finish that, and you’re finally a Consultant. (What many in the public refer to as a “specialist” or, in the case of General Practitioners, Fellows of the RACGP– fully qualified and accredited family doctors.)

It is odd if you step away.

Will people point you out for daring to be different? – Grand Canyon. Photo: The Medical Startup

It is odd if you take a break. (Okay, maternity/paternity leave, marriage, other life events, they obviously do happen.) In the recent past, not even five years ago, it may have been more acceptable to take a break for a year. But with the ferocity of job competition amongst junior and senior doctors alike in Australia, the walls are closing in on flexibility.

And now, taking a step away from training; even for just a few months; even by remaining employed but putting off an exam for a year; even if you just need a 6 month “half-gap” of a year, because you’ve not had a proper study break since you were 5 years old – even if – sorry to hear –  a tragic life event has shaken your world – it can be seen as detrimental to a person’s chance of being rehired.

And when you’re surrounded by colleagues and well-meaning friends who don’t understand, and who actually say that those who take a break, even to work on a startup, are “unambitious” or “unmotivated” – is it any wonder, then, why doctors feel isolated and stay under the radar when they come up with an idea?

And, even if a hospital or clinic is supportive (and they usually are; unfortunately, it tends to be particular influential individuals who aren’t) – you have to go a step higher, and try explain to colleges that you’re still doing valuable work in healthcare, by working on your startup- it just doesn’t fit their definition of training.

And this is why doctors find it hard to Innovate.

Leaping through the clouds- daring to dream. Photo: The Medical Startup

How can you innovate when you are feeling weighed down by all these pressures?

How can you innovate where your environment is slow to respond to change, and, despite best intentions, has trouble understanding the few (or many) employees who want to do more, but can’t articulate their feelings?

How can you innovate when you risk being penalised or even kicked out of a specialty college that you’ve worked so hard to enter?

How can the medical profession realise that a step away doesn’t equate a permanent career change, and that it is vital for the future of healthcare for motivated health professionals to gain experience building something outside of their day-to-day work environments in order to bring optimal change for their patients and colleagues? 

Entrepreneurship doesn’t suit everyone. This is not a comment on forcing everybody to become entrepreneurial. It’s about creating the supportive ecosystem for those who are motivated and capable of change, to create that good change.

We should connect our different ways of thinking, and allow ourselves to shine. Credit: The Medical Startup

Many Australian hospitals have rotations in Clinical Redesign and Innovation, or other similarly-named Medical Resident positions. A junior doctor has the opportunity, usually for 10-12 weeks (the standard duration for hospital rotations) to work on innovating within the hospital system. They are usually assigned a senior Supervisor and observe, advise, discuss, formulate, and strategise solutions and carry out these solutions during these ten weeks.

Projects are varied. They can improve the efficiency of completing discharge letters sent to the GP when patients go home. They can improve the allocations of night shift duty. They can create more structured Handover meetings at the start of each shift, so the staff finishing can “hand over” outstanding tasks and patient updates to incoming team members. These roles give junior doctors the opportunity to innovate. However, very few of these roles exist, and to be honest, I am not sure of the demand for doctors who want to rotate in these roles over Cardiology, Nephrology or other critical specialties that count towards training and clinical care. (Feel free to let me know.)

I’ve been really fortunate (and also worked hard!) to attend events where I get to meet people in the health tech space; and others who are medical entrepreneurs in non-medical fields; and I find, that non-medical people are, very graciously, applauding those of us who innovate. Those of us who choose to step away. This whole post has been stimulated by yet another Twitter comment by a non-medical entity encouraging more doctors to innovate. It’s fantastic that the non-medical community are eager to see more doctors and health professionals innovate. If they only knew how hard it was, and how much doctors risk by choosing to innovate, they might understand why there are, perhaps, fewer Australian doctors in the entrepreneurial spotlight than in other fields.

Dreaming big at Yosemite National Park. Photo: The Medical Startup

I’m going to shine this spotlight on inspiring health professionals who are doing great things with their time, to help normalise this situation, and to celebrate their wins as well as their journeys. And I challenge you, too, to be inspired, to value your time, and give your best to the world, no matter what field you’re in.

Do you agree? How can healthcare ecosystems and communities in general improve inclusion for health professionals to innovate, in and out of their workspaces? What cultural issues need to be addressed and how can they be fixed? Or do you think things are fine as they are? Feel free to comment below, or send us an email via our Contact page.