In 2016 Dr Danielle Dondiego was burnt out and exhausted. She was working 80 hour weeks, dealing with the stress and emotions that come alongside experiences on the front line, and at home, she was dealing with an abusive relationship. After losing several colleagues to suicide, Danielle began to ask herself if this was all worth it. Fast forward five years and she is working in telemedicine whilst running a successful coaching business, she is a published author, and her bad relationship is a thing of the past.
Dr Danielle DonDiego is a board-certified Family Physician and Obesity Specialist. She also studied business at Virginia Tech, where she earned an MBA. We caught up with her to get some advice for other doctors looking to advance their careers or change their lifestyles by taking on locum shifts.
1. What are some tips you could give other doctors who want to advance their careers?
Be creative! What you are naturally good at you CAN and SHOULD use in your career. If you see a gap you want to find a solution for, just do it. You don't need permission or another degree in most cases to be bold and start something of your own.
2. What advice can you offer to doctors working full time on how to manifest and secure their dream job?
My ultimate advice is to create it. However, if creating a job from scratch feels too risky, look for jobs that are exactly what you envision. SteadyMD was that for me. Not many colleagues understood what I was doing when I started working in telemedicine 4 years ago. Could we really doctor online? Was I going to lose my skills? Turns out 2020 showed us the need and gap we could easily fill having been doing this for years already. It's ok to work unconventionally, let go of whatever others may think of you - your happiness is still the number one priority.
3. You mention the importance of creating a positive relationship with money on your website. Are you able to provide some steps doctors can take to achieve this?
Yes! I love discussing money with other doctors, mostly related to mindset. We have a unique situation where most of us graduated with a LOT of debt and feel frantic to pay it off, also want to live our lives, and maybe never had a finance course in our educational past. Maybe our households didn't discuss money in a healthy way either. All of this plays into how we spend, save, and invest. There are a lot of broke doctors living paycheck to paycheck, and this greatly contributes to mental health issues and feeling locked into a job they may not truly feel aligned with. We have to stop making money a taboo topic.
4. From a medical industry perspective can you provide some tips on how to turn burnout into inspiration in the workplace?
From my experience, our personal story perfectly sets us up for what we are capable of accomplishing and are called to create. Use what you know, what you see, what you've personally experienced. There is no way your experience won't help someone else out there silently going through the same thing. Releasing my story in "Self-Care Rx" was one way I was able to do that. Rejecting the 80-hour work week is another. I radically put myself before anyone else and that has been very taboo in medicine.
5. Can you provide some tips for doctors interviewing for their dream role on how to present themselves and create their brand?
Personal branding is so important! Don't be afraid to discuss your interests outside of the job you are after. I always loved hearing about residency applicants' interests outside of work. Who are they? What do they stand for? Is this someone I want to be on call with for 24 hours? This may be more radical advice, but if you end up at a job where the culture is not welcoming of WHO you actually are, you will be unhappy no matter the salary. So don't hide who you are. Go where you are celebrated, not what you think the world wants to see.
6. Can you provide some tips for doctors on harnessing a mindset for success?
I would first ask them how they personally define success. The world may say one thing, but deep down you may have an entirely different definition. If you aren't happy, external success is really meaningless. I choose to live in an apartment instead of buying the big dream home, because I define my personal success differently than the world sees. I know what I value and what I don't. If you don't know your personal core values, success will be hard to define, so start there.
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