Physician Career Transition: The Three Dimensions of Fulfillment

by Francine Gaillour, MD

in Aligning With Values & Purpose,Career Resilience & Fulfillment,Meet Some "Daring Doctors"

For an audio discussion of the Three Dimensions of Professional Fulfillment, get my FREE Physician Career Management Toolkit


For physicians embarking on professional transition, a helpful model I have used with clients is the Three Dimensions of Career Fulfillment. Imagine three interlocking circles, each representing one of these three aspects:

  1. Vision-Values
  2. Skills
  3. Economic Engine

When we were physicians early in training, our VISION-VALUES often included “service”, “achievement”, “learning”, and perhaps “spirituality”, among others. The SKILLS we developed in medical school and residency were on target for the specialty that we chose. And once we completed training, a healthy ECONOMIC ENGINE rewarded us for those skills. More than likely, all three dimensions were well aligned and we felt professionally fulfilled.

When physicians experience boredom, frustration or lack of professional fulfillment, it often means the VISION-VALUES circle has drifted away from the other two circles. The VISION-VALUES circle is no longer aligned with Skills and an Economic Engine. The reason for the “drifting away” often indicates that VISION-VALUES are not honored in your current professional environment; for example, strong VISION-VALUES may be around “personal growth”, “emotional health”, “family”, “creativity”, or “balance”.

For professional transition to be truly effective, and indeed transformational, it is imperative to clearly assess and acknowledge your core VISION-VALUES—what are your passions, talents, and inherent strengths? What gets you up in the morning? What do you enjoy more than anything in the world? From that center-point then, what NEW skills can your learn, what NEW economic engine can you develop, that will align with your core VISION-VALUES?

Your Core Values are inherent to you; because they are not always clear, your task during transition is to uncover or discover them.

Your SKILLS are learned; just like clinical skills, new skills can be acquired through school, training, or apprenticeships. In an optimal situation, your new skills are aligned with or complement VISION-VALUES.

Your Economic Engine is earned; your task is to research the possibilities in society for economically rewarding new skills.

A successful professional transition is a process more than a final destination. The process is one of becoming clearer about and committed to your core VISION-VALUES over time. Any number of professional paths might be the right avenue at a given point in your journey. If professional fulfillment is your goal, then your most important task is to evaluate choices in light of how they honor your personal VISION and VALUES.

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, Executive Coach for Physicians

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