Today I am excited to have Dr. Mary Leung on the show. Dr. Mary Leung is working full-time as a hematologist and a medical oncologist and enjoying life coaching for physicians. In this episode, you will hear how she went from feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked as a full-time clinical physician to helping other physicians live better lives and enjoy their work.
With coaching, she was able to cut her clinic day by more than 2 hours a day. When she looked back, what seemed to be impossible became possible. She can never go back to (charting) where she was. Listen to her story and the tips she shares in this episode.
During this episode, you will learn about;
[00:00] Introduction to the show and a quick bio of the guest; Dr. Mary Leung
[03:06] Dr. Mary’s backstory and journey to medicine
[07:15] How her inspiration for medicine has been challenged or supported
[13:03] Coming into terms with coaching as a service
[14:24] A coaching session that helped her reduce the charting time at work
[19:07] Steps you can take in that path of effective charting as a physician and finish your work on time and go home
[20:50] How her family has benefited from being an effective physician
[22:17] Having enough and balanced time impacts services delivery to patients
[26:20] Golden take-away nuggets to medical practitioners from the guest
[29:05] Why Mary believes all doctors should have a coach
[30:15] Connect and calls to action
- The experiences of life are sometimes our turning points. We may not realize that instantly, but it makes sense later in life.
- How we think of a situation determines how we feel about things.
- It’s okay to believe that you are worthy no matter what.
- Selfcare is not selfish. It is essential. Without caring for yourself, you cannot care abundantly for others.
- Perfection is impossible among human beings, even among doctors.
Do you want to get home sooner from the clinic or hospital? With all your notes and charting done, too? Get your FREE PDF guide with 10 tips to maximize your clinical efficiency! https://www.mededwell.com/efficiencyguide/
Dr. Ryan Stegink(Host)
Get Coaching with Dr. Stegink: https://www.mededwell.com/coaching
Dr. Mary Leung(Guest)
Above are the episode show notes and below is the transcript via www.temi.com. Some episode transcripts have been edited more than others, but they are up in the meantime to help those who would rather read and for searchability on the web. Extensive editing has not been prioritized as I seek to both produce regular content and maintain my own wellness. See the website disclaimer if you have questions, since this is all for your education and entertainment only. Enjoy!
Dr. Ryan Stegink (00:01):
Does charting in medicine seem overwhelming the queue of messages, labs, patient calls that never seems to get smaller. The pile of preauthorizations awaiting your input, the tens or hundreds of charts that you still have to finish and sign it’s exhausting, right? And still all you want is to be able to go home with your work done, to be able to spend time with family, hang out with friends, practice, self care. I want to invite you to join me for a six week long coaching program, charting mastery, where you will get equipped with the skills and approach that you need to get home sooner and leave that work at work, to check out more info and to join the wait list, head over to charting mastery Dott net. You will be among the first to hear when the door is open so that you can join me on this journey.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (01:12):
There will be opportunities to reflect and earn CME after the different sessions as well. And now onto today’s show. Welcome to the MedEd well podcast, empowering positions to get work done at work, and then be able to reflect and choose what is important for both their life and medical practice. I’m your host, Dr. Ryan Stegen general pediatrician and life coach for physicians. Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the med well podcast, where physicians come to be encouraged and equipped to take the next step in their own wellness journey. Thank you so much for subscribing and sharing these episodes and for engaging with these concepts today, I’m excited to introduce another guest joining us on the podcast. Dr. Mary Long, Dr. Long is a physician who is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology. She’s also a certified life coach who is passionate about serving physicians who are stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out from the depths of her own experience. Mary started shining with gratitude MD whose ardent purpose is to guide other physicians through their unique situations so they can feel better regain control and live holistically in the present. Mary believes that if physicians can enjoy practicing medicine, again, they can take better care of their patients through renewal. They can shine brighter for their families and all the lives they touch Dr. Long to the show.
Dr. Mary Leung (03:00):
Thank you for having me today.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (03:02):
So tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey to medicine.
Dr. Mary Leung (03:06):
Yeah. So when I was growing up, I grew up in Hong Kong. My parents they’re both physicians. They’re retired. Now, when we were having dinner at home, they would talk about patients, their challenges, interesting cases, and how they wanted to help their patients. So from then onwards, it was just natural for me to feel like, Hey, that’s something that I could do to help people as simple as that, cuz I want to help people. And my parents never forced me into medicine. It was my choice, which was really nice as I was getting older, that really desire did not change. I got interested more in science. I took more science track in high school in Hong Kong. And then in college I chose medical technology as kind of my pre-med, you know, pre-med education and applied to medical school. During that time, my grandmother was not feeling well in one summer vacation.
Dr. Mary Leung (04:34):
We did not know that she was sick just one day. She just collapsed and was sent to the hospital. Thankfully I was in Hong Kong spending, you know, my vacation with my family. So I got to see her in the hospital. We did not know what was going on. I just remembered that her calcium level was really high and I saw her x-ray and her skull was full of holes. And within 10 days she passed away. I was very close to my grandmother. She took care of me when my parents were working really hard. So losing her. So suddenly just really inspired me to want to know more about oncology. We did not know exactly what cancer she had, but it was definitely some kind of stage four cancer. So that moving forward was also that I was thinking besides wanting to help people. I enjoy the long term relationship with people. I like to connect with people. I like to know about my patients besides their diagnoses, their struggles, what they like to do. So I have these patients that I know who likes to do a certain number of sit ups every morning. I know who, who plays pickup, you know, pickle ball every day. And I know their family members and that’s what I enjoy. And they become, you know, part of my family. So I guess my journey to medicine, it’s kind of straightforward in a sense, but also inspired by, you know, how I grew up.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (06:32):
Well, thanks for your vulnerability. And I’m sorry for your loss. Sometimes those experiences are kind of turning points or milestones in our life that when we look back, we can see how that really shaped our experience and where we ended up. So mm-hmm, thanks for sharing that. As you look at some of those priorities and what really excites you about medicine and connecting with patients and that continuity and really knowing them, how has that shaped or how has that been challenged by yeah, just going through training and now into your medical practice.
Dr. Mary Leung (07:15):
Yeah. So after medical school, it was residency, you know, thinking back right now, it was all like a whirlwind, you know, the three years went by so quickly, it was pretty brutal training. It could have been worse depending on what program you were in. I’m sure all of us physicians knew. And then I got into my first choice, you know, fellowship program, which was my, you know, where my residency was. I was very thankful about that. Fellowship was another three years of not as intense in a sense compared to residency. And, um, I was just very excited and looking forward to being an attending. I thought at that time, that being an attending was kind of the ultimate thing to do. I would be on the top of the world. I would have authority. I would be able to do a lot of things. So then came the day that I became an attending.
Dr. Mary Leung (08:23):
That was a couple months after I graduated. And I felt like, well, I was kind just doing the same thing as I was doing as a fellow, seeing the patient, you know, doing my charts, calling my, you know, patients back, looking at all the labs, you know, all the backlog, everything. And I thought, okay, you know, I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna work hard of slacking was never in really my vocabulary, but, you know, and um, I just continue on and on and on and ended up starting to work 60 plus hours and was being paid 40 hours. Sure. Most of us do the same. And I started to feel not so excited about my job. I felt like, what is, you know, what is going on? I felt tired. I woke up in the, the morning I dreaded, I dreaded to go to work.
Dr. Mary Leung (09:37):
Cause I knew that it was going to be a long day. I didn’t really enjoy as much seeing my patients and not really fully present to hear about their problems because I was on a time restraint. You know, I was scheduled every 15 minutes to see a follow up patient, be it be benign hematology or medical oncology, be it be, you know, someone who was very sick who was going through chemo or eye deficiency in. And I felt like I did not have time to, to connect with patients the way that I wanted to connect. I felt very rushed and I sacrificed my charting time to connect with my patients. And it ended up that I would just, at the end of the day, have a whole pile of charts and I would have to finish them. And it took me longer to finish each chart.
Dr. Mary Leung (10:47):
So I would go home around maybe seven o’clock or so, because I still wanted my kids to recognize me that I was their mom before they went to bed. So I did, and then I would chart more and then I was so tired. I would just go to sleep. And the day started again, you know, in the morning. So came weekends. I didn’t even want to really hang out with anybody. I felt like there was a chore. I didn’t enjoy, you know, what I really valued and enjoyed the most I did not. And that just kind of went on. I just went through the motions and I didn’t really think too much of it until the pandemic hit.
Dr. Mary Leung (11:43):
So when the pandemic hit two years ago, our patient volume went down at least transiently to about a third of the patient load. We still had to see patients because they were sick. They were, you know, going through chemotherapy that we could, could not postpone for some of them. During that time. I discovered that I act well. I had extra time to do other things, to do things that I enjoy. Like I actually was able to spend more time with my patients to take care of them, the way that I wanted, I was able to go home and be present with my family and, uh, even started cooking and baking. And that was wonderful. So at the same time, I discovered this online virtual conference about physicians just getting into nonclinical endeavors and talking about their psychics, you know, be it be real estate investing and making their own products and such.
Dr. Mary Leung (13:02):
And then I came across this thing called coaching. I was like, what is that? I had no clue what coaching was outside of sports. So then I was thinking, well, I had time. Let me explore. So then I attended a group coaching session and I started to be curious. I was like, oh, you know, they were talking about how, you know, they, we have situations and how we think of the situation really determines how we feel about things. And we re humans always do things based on our feelings. And of course what we do determines what our results are. So I was thinking, wow, that is so simple. That, that makes so much sense. How come no one taught us these things when we were younger. So then I sign up for coaching group program and that just blew my mind. That program also included one on, on one coaching sessions that I attended.
Dr. Mary Leung (14:24):
And at that time I talked to my coach about my pain point was really the long hours that I was working as an attending. And the biggest thing was the charting. So we were working on not so much on the actual technique and such to improve my, you know, charting time, but more to think about the mindset behind it. Cause I noticed that usually on the first half of the day, I was able to keep up with most of the charting and the second half of the day I started to fall apart. And then, so we explored and found out that because second half a good day, I was, I was thinking to myself that, oh, I still have so much more to do. I’m getting tired. I don’t wanna do this anymore. So that kind of translates to that. I was getting slower and I was just kind of pushing things away, avoiding things.
Dr. Mary Leung (15:28):
And so at the end of the day, I was having this pile of charts that I had to do and ended up having to chart even more. So then, you know, kind of just refocus on, Hey, I wanted to finish my charting on time and why the why behind it, because I wanted to go home on time and spend time with my family. So, yeah. And, and just as simple as that, I mean, as simple concept, not the easiest thing to do, it took me about three months and just slowly, gradually, I’m just, you know, keeping that in mind that I’m the person who, you know, finishes my chart on time and I’m seeing the patient finishing the chart is okay to have the next patient wait just a couple more minutes in the past, I felt so guilty. Cause I was telling myself this story that I have to be on time for the next patient, the patient, the next patient is three o’clock and it’s 3 0 5. I gotta go in.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (16:39):
Yeah, I’ve been there too. Cuz it’s, it’s so easy to just tell ourselves these stories of like, oh, well I have to do this. Or the discomfort of feeling like, well I need to be in that next room. And I’ve found that as I’ve implemented some of those things in my own practice, that it actually allows me to go to the next room. Maybe even without going back to my work room, cuz I’ve been able to put in my orders, I’ve been able to talk to the patient and be fully present and then I can have the mental clarity to be fully present in the next room. So I think that’s really helpful just to hear how you had to work through some of these things because yeah, many times we’re not taught these things and those thoughts really do matter because it’s the same thing. Charting itself is just a thing that’s neutral, but it’s the meaning that we assign to it or the discomfort and the procrastination that it’s easier to check my Inba or my work email than to just finish that one extra chart.
Dr. Mary Leung (17:46):
Exactly. And it actually takes a lot of brain cells if you switch back and forth, you know, from one patient to another patient. So as you were mentioning, it was really much more efficient to see the patient. Of course, if you can see the patient and then chart at the same time, as much as you can, that’s the greatest thing to do. Or if you can finish the chart while still in the room, then just finish it before you go into the next room and you know, do all the orders and everything. Then you can be fully present with the next patient without thinking about the previous patient that, oh, I have to order this later. And then you may still forget to order it and that kind of, you know, energy, just to try to remember five different things at the same time is very draining.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (18:39):
Hmm. If someone’s hearing this and thinking that sounds like a, a great future ideal and certainly looking at your why those priorities of why you wanna get done is a big part of this, but where would you tell people to start? What would be that first step that you’d tell ’em, Hey, this is something that you could change that would get you on the path to getting some of these things done more quickly.
Dr. Mary Leung (19:07):
Yeah. So in the beginning I did not think that it was possible. I thought that I would have to chart till three hours of the night forever. And I was thinking that how was I able to sustain this? Was this even living life it wasn’t. And so just, I think the first step is just be open to thinking about it is possible to chart faster. It is possible to go home on time and to do the things that you want to do. It is not necessarily possible the next day, but the more you work on it, the more you tell yourself your mind that it is possible. And just to be having that positive energy of focus and determination, it’s, you know, you can do it if I can do it, which I’m just a regular normal attending human being, then anyone can do it
Dr. Ryan Stegink (20:12):
Well. So encouraging and inspiring, I think just to know that even having been in such a really tough spot in terms of, yeah, bringing work home, being exhausted, not feeling like you were fully present with your family and yet by examining your thoughts about it and making some of these changes and you said it was over a period of months, so it, it wasn’t overnight. How did your feelings, or like how you experienced this and how did your family experience these changes as you gradually got more efficient?
Dr. Mary Leung (20:50):
Yeah. So I really have the time to spend with my kids. They’re 10 and 13. So they’re not very young also, you know, not to the point that they, they don’t want to spend time with you just yet. And we were able to just spend sometimes with movie nights, sometimes we were just, you know, playing games and uh, I also have time to, you know, really think about, oh, what I can do at night, even a weeknight. I remember the first time, well that I started to go home consistently, and this is at least two hours earlier than what I used to do that I was in awe I didn’t know that what to do because I did not have this luxury to think about it at that, you know, in the, in the past. And so as you mentioned, you know, just be able to be fully present at home, be with the family and be able to just balance the work and your outside work life. It’s amazing. And I think that it is possible for everybody. It may not be the same path. It may not be the same way, but really putting your mind to it and, and work on it is it’s doable.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (22:18):
And I think even just having that margin allows you to show up with more energy and excitement for the work and the connecting with patients. And I think sometimes for me having been through burnout eight months out of residency, because I was bringing charts home, it was hard to see, okay, when am I gonna be able to really enjoy going to work and having those connections with patients? And I think one of the other thoughts that we need to make sure that you reexamine, cuz some of these things are just stories we’ve told ourselves that maybe we need to look at again, it doesn’t have to take a long time to make a connection with the patient or their family. And so being aware of that and leaning into that and really trying to listen well can allow you to still accomplish some of those things. Maybe not in 15 minutes, but it still can help you move, move forward and stay closer down schedule.
Dr. Mary Leung (23:25):
Yeah. And so now I definitely feel more connected with my patients and just today my nurse practitioner was telling me that she could see the difference in me in this past year that I show up happier and just more upbeat and you know, just overall a more positive person. And I do feel that and I guess that other people see it too. And during my patient visits, I would sometimes like some patients would tell me how they’re worried or stressed and all. And, and I would kind of like sneak in some, you know, coaching in there that we could talk about. And just, and another thing today that happened, I was just talking to this patient that she felt small in general when she went into a room and we were just talking about, it’s how you’re thinking of yourself, that you’re feeling small and it’s okay to be, to believe that you are worthy no matter what you have your own back.
Dr. Mary Leung (24:38):
And it’s a simple concept, but it’s the first time I hear it. And I’m like, what, what are you talking about? And, and then also how we talk to ourselves, my coach told me that, would you talk to a little girl? Like the way you talk to yourself? When I thought about it, I was thinking, no, I was very mean to myself. And I think a lot of us are very mean to ourselves. And so the important thing is to be aware of how we are treating ourselves, think, be nice to ourselves and, uh, have compassion to ourselves and take care of ourself. Cause I always say, I think the important thing is self care is not selfish. It is essential and without caring for yourself and really, you know, be full of abundance. Like say that if you, you cannot be thankful if you don’t have compassion, if you don’t have the joy, the content, how do you expect to give those same things to your patients, to your family? You cannot give what you don’t have.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (26:06):
Yeah. Well, and I was about to ask what was one piece of advice you’d have for someone earlier in their career that you wish you had known back then, but I think you’ve hit all those points unless you have maybe one final takeaway.
Dr. Mary Leung (26:20):
I think, yeah, the selfcare is very important. And I think the other thing is that be more in tune with, how are you feeling? I think in medical school school, in our training, no one tell us to feel, in fact we’re supposed to not to feel and we are supposed to go through the motions, do your job and get things done correctly, perfectly. It’s okay to know that we are not perfect because we’re human beings and just be aware of, you know, these sneaky thoughts that, Hey, you gotta be perfect. Otherwise something bad would happen. Yes. In medicine is we gotta do things. Right. But as a human being in general, perfection, it’s impossible to achieve. It is a goal that you want to look toward to do, but it’s okay not to be a hundred percent perfect. And if you feel like you are how I was feeling before coaching, like, you know, you feel stressed, you feel like you don’t enjoy life anymore.
Dr. Mary Leung (27:36):
And of course, to a certain point, get help. You know, um, there’s the suicide hotline. There’s 9, 8, 8. We can dial to get help. And also just, you know, talk to someone about it. Cause you are not alone in the United States. What about 70% of physicians are moderately to severely burned out? So it is a very serious thing that I’m hoping that I can help as many physicians as possible to get through this cuz I have gone through it and I know how it feels and I know how the other side feel, which is amazing. And when I look back, I’m just thinking I never want to go back there again.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (28:23):
Well, and thanks for those additional insights and just a reminder of yeah. Being a human being and having value and the importance of community and colleagues. And it would be great if every physician was able to work with a coach. But talking about these things with each other and saying, how are you really? And not just putting up the I’m fine. I think this will go a long ways towards helping each of us take, take that next step because it is so prevalent.
Dr. Mary Leung (28:57):
Mm-hmm and that’s what I believe too. You know, I believe that every physician should have a coach and I, I work with a coach and uh, it’s amazing. It’s, you know, it’s just someone who is able to guide you was, you know, we all have our own answers that we don’t know that we have and their perspectives that we did not explore to see things differently. So because of that, a lot of times we’re just getting into our default thinking and we think that we’re stuck in a situation and oftentimes that’s not true. And we, you know, we’re, we’re capable. We can really figure out hard things and we can do a lot of crazy things in medicine. So we can do a lot of amazing things in life. And we just have to believe in ourselves that we can do it. And sometimes it just takes someone else to point that out to you that you can do that too.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (30:04):
Yeah. Well, thanks so much for joining me Dr. Long here on the podcast. If someone wants to learn more about you or how you might work with them, where could they find you?
Dr. Mary Leung (30:14):
Yes. So they can find me on my website, shining with gratitude MD do com and that’s also where I write my blogs twice a week and also can email me shining with gratitude MD, gmail.com. I’m also on Facebook, Mary and LinkedIn, Mary MD.
Dr. Ryan Stegink (30:42):
Wonderful. I’ll have links in the show notes for all of you listening. I want you to consider how you can apply what you have learned from Dr. Lung in today’s discussion. And then please share this podcast with another doctor in your life and subscribe. You can help change the culture of medicine and promote wellness for your patients, your colleagues, and yourself. Thank you so much for all that you do and have a great day. And now for our important disclaimer, Dr. Ryan Stegen is a practicing general pediatrician, but the MedEd well podcast does not reflective views opinions or belief of this employer nor his affiliated university. Additionally, the MedEd well podcast is for educational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered advice regarding financial legal student loan, medical, or any other specific topic. In such a case you should seek consultation with certified professional in that particular area. Again, thanks for joining us on the MedEd well podcast and have a great day.