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Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPEDiscovering Your Professional Path Through Your "Archetype":  Shaman, Warrior, Artist, Chief, Nurturer, Mystic?

by Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE

Let's start the new year with some esoteric stuff, dear Daring Doctors.  For those of you who want to hear tips on career development, tune in next month.  For those of you who want to explore the edge as you do "inner development," keep reading.

The start of the new year led me into a new (recurrent) adventure of mind/soul exploration with my own coach as we spent three days of quality time exploring the concept that every person has a "destiny."  This led to further inquiry about "what is the significance of my having become a physician?" and how is this related to my "destiny?"

What is the Significance of Your Having Become a Physician?

So I will pose the same question to you:  What is the significance of your having become a physician and how does it relate to your "soul path?"

For many of my readers, and several of my clients, the reason we are working together is because your "professional" life has taken a significant turn---or is about to.  In other words, you are either a) questioning whether the professional road you're on is one you want to stay on, or b) you are already embarking on a "new road" and we're navigating the bumps, or c) you were abruptly bumped off the road you thought was "the one" for you.  

Here is the task that I want to challenge you with:  look at your road in medicine and the choices you've made, or the twists in the road that you didn't plan on, and find the major clues that point to your "essence."  Your essence is the your "true self" which points to your "destiny." 

Let's Have Some Fun With "Archetypes"

A common "metaphysical" approach to looking at "essence" and "destiny"  is to uncover your "archetype."  The work of Carl Jung and his 16 archetypes is familiar to many of you who are psychologists, psychiatrists, or to those of you who  have taken a Myers Briggs personality profile.  However, even before Carl Jung, various "archetypes" and mythological personalities have referred to in various cultures and religions for over a thousand years as a means to explain the mystery of human existence.  Numerology has been used as tool to arrive at or calculate aspects of the archetype or "destiny" and is still a tool for modern followers of Kabbalah and I Ching.

There is much more to learn about this topic than I can provide  here, but I thought it would be fun to "borrow" a few archetypes from various disciplines to see if you recognize yourself in one or more of them.  Here we go:

Shaman (aka Curandera) - This is the path of the holistic healer, who incorporates intuitive information along with observable facts.  Mind, soul and body are one and the same.  As a physician, has it been your desire to integrate all three and serve as a Shaman?  Have you  been frustrated by the reality that modern medical practice does not support this notion (either through practice convention or reimbursement).  Is medicine leaving you drained because it has become so tactical and procedural, and lacking in soul-connectedness with patients?

Warrior - This is the path of trailblazers and those who step up first to fight for the cause.  Have you found yourself in positions where you are the voice of dissent? Are you generally on the front line rallying your physician colleagues to stand up for their rights? Or, alternatively, have you been accused of "starting a fight" for no good reason, or being inappropriately confrontational?  Warriors without a legitimate battle often find themselves in trouble.

Artist - This is the path for those to see, hear and perceive beauty and the quintessence of human experience through various media. The creative mind, eye or hand require self-expression, which may have limited outlets in clinical practice or healthcare management. Artists without the time for or means of expression find themselves longing and frustrated.  

Chief - This is the path for those who want to be in charge, who can see a way, a plan, a strategy and relish in creating stability, organization or movement. Chiefs without a large enough organization or constituency may be frustrated by their inability to impact.  In healthcare, fortunately there are many outlets for Chief archetypes.

Nurturer - This is the path for the caring "earth mother/father/parent" whose drive is to comfort, protect and nourish the flock.  In medicine there are many of these archetypes, and they often do well.  Nurturers avoid conflict, however,  in their quest to create harmony and will find themselves at odds when situations are overly complex, ambiguous or aggressive. 

Mystic - This is the path of the philosopher and spiritual seeker, who likely has experienced much angst and soul-torment along his/her professional road ---this is often the way to enlightenment.  The Mystic delights in observing the complexity of the universe and our place in it, and so may tire of the constraints and routine of clinical care.  Mystics are often misunderstood as unrealistic visionaries, or aloof daydreamers. 

Remember that these are only a handful of archetypes, and my interpretation and application for physicians is dangerously brief, so don't panic if you don't find yourself here or if you don't like what you hear.  My point is: dare to look at your professional path as a soul journey, and perhaps one that other "archetypes" have taken before you. Learning about archetypes will help you understand yourself better and put your current professional fork-in-the-road in a different perspective.


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE is an executive coach and business consultant.  She is president of The Gaillour Group and director  of Creative Strategies in Physician Leadership.  Dr. Gaillour is a professional speaker on healthcare leadership, technology and cultural change.  

She can be reached at (206) 686-4205 or francine@physicianleadership.com


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   2006 Ki Health, Inc.