Here is the full transcript of pediatrician Christi Hay’s TEDx Talk: A Doctor’s Standard Career Path – And The Path I Chose at TEDxFoggyBottom conference.
Christi Hay – Pediatrician
I’m a doctor. We doctors are not typically considered risk takers.
Our path is pretty safe. We go to college, take pre-med school courses, some would go to graduate school and get a master’s degree, and then complete four years of medical school. After medical school, there is residency fellowship for three to seven years. Once all that training is done, most of us go and work in a hospital for a provider, like Kaiser, or in private practice.
Like I said, pretty safe path. But I left this path for something different. And I would like to share that journey with you today.
I followed this blueprint with every intention on being a lifelong employee of a hospital. I love to teach. I have a master’s in public health, in health behavior, health education. I love my specialty – pediatrics.
So, I thought the best fit for me would be a physician in a pediatric teaching hospital. But after eight years, something was missing. So I made the switch to private practice. In private practice, I love the families, but the business of medicine, not so much.
Honestly, medical school and residency did not prepare me for the business of medicine. I can diagnose and treat diseases; no problem. Give me a sick kid coughing, difficulty breathing, the parents in the corner about to faint because they don’t know what to do, I’m all over that.
My brain clicks on, I’m diagnosing the problem, determining the best course of action, but private practice was more than that. There were office policies and procedures that just didn’t make sense to me.
Insurance policies with different formularies and benefits, office personnel that just didn’t know what they were doing. It ultimately made my workday a nightmare. Imagine waking up everyday to start a nightmare. Who does that? I did for three years. To make matters worse, I was always getting in trouble.
And I have to say, I am not a troublemaker. But, I became that person over the years that was asking questions about things that just didn’t make sense to me. Like, why did it take four weeks to return a school form when I can complete it in four minutes during the visit? Or why did it take 20 minutes to bring a family back to an empty exam room when I could do it in two?
Or why did a mother, calling to find out what food to feed her child with diarrhea, need to come into the office for a visit? And why was a medical assistant who could not properly count respiratory rate and heart rate not fired? And why was the schedule done in a way that I must enter every room and say, “I’m so sorry for your wait.” Trouble I stayed in it and it just added to my nightmare experience at work.
Then one of my girlfriends gave me my aha moment. We were chatting on the phone about work when she simply said: “You were not listening to the voice in your head. The voice is telling you to pick up and move, but you are comfortable where you are, but miserable, so you need to make a choice. No one is making you stay there but yourself.”
And with that, I knew I needed to start my own pediatrics practice. I was choosing to stay in the nightmare. Who does that? Most of us. My husband had been encouraging me to start my own practice since medical school, but that wasn’t my intention at first.
But now, I believed that I could create a pediatrics practice that was a pleasant experience for the child, the family, and me. The process of creating Palisades Pediatrics forced me to think about what is medicine to me? How can I fully express myself as a physician and a health educator? How could I be my authentic self at work? I had never asked myself these questions before.
So in 2011, I started my own pediatrics practice. I made it small and intimate. My families have direct access to me. They call, text, email me when they need me. I visit my families at their home.
I focused on comprehensive and preventive care I’m in. I’m the doctor, the nurse, the lab tech, and the receptionist. Some call it old-fashion, I just call it different.
To me, medicine is more than diagnosing and treating illness. For me, a doctor, a good doctor, is about three things: relationships, accountability,and passion. Medicine is about doctor-patient relationships. And in the case of pediatrics, the doctor-family relationship. Listening to and communicating with the patient builds that relationship.
I believe that it is important for my families to know who I am, where I was raised, where I was educated, what my interests are, and what my treatment philosophy looks like. Does my personality and medical philosophy fit for this family? Communication is the foundation of the doctor-patient relationship and ultimately, the care of the child.