Episode 4: Transformation with Dr. Ali Novitsky
Dr. Weisman: I'm your colleague in medicine and coach in life, Dr. Errin Weisman. And this episode I am talking with Dr. Ali Novitsky. She is an amazing physicians who is a neonatologist as well as a physician life coach! Woop woop woop! Another one of us! I love it out there. I think everybody needs a life coach and I'm so glad to find other physician colleagues who are doing this type of work for one another.
Dr. Weisman: So the word that she chose is transformation, and I can not wait to share this conversation with you all.
Dr. Weisman: Hey, everybody! It's Dr. Weisman again, coming at you. I have a very special guest. I am going to let her introduce herself and tell us all about what she is doing in the world of medicine. So Dr. Ali, go ahead!
Dr Ali Novitsky: Thank you so much, first of all, for having me. This is amazing. My name is Ali Novitsky and I am a trained neonatologist. And a couple years ago I got this wonderful job with this amazing company, Optum Health, and I am part of a neonatal resource team and I work with other neonatologists. And we basically ... We do a lot. We work with different health care plans, so I really find of expanded my practice to even more of a business side of medicine. And then in the interim, I became very interested in life coaching because I found a school that really focused on cognitive coaching. And what cognitive coaching is, it stemmed from cognitive behavioral therapy and my husband is a psychiatrist and I have done cognitive behavioral therapy work myself, and I really believe in it.
Dr Ali Novitsky: So I'm very passionate about it because I think it can help you just really live your best life. I really am always looking for change and good change and transformation, if you will. So currently I am doing some life coaching when I'm not working my full time job and I coach on everything from jobs to weight loss to relationships. But with my husband, we are really excited because we just launched our podcast, which is called Resuscitate Your Marriage RX for Physicians.
Dr Ali Novitsky: So essentially what we do is it's a man and woman's perspective on marriage, however, we speak to all different marriages, so you don't just have to married to a man. It can be all different marriages and relationships. So we just started and we're having a lot of fun with it, and really excited to see where it's going to go.
Dr. Weisman: That is absolutely amazing. I love everything that you're doing. And I just have to tell our audience, if you hear knocking and random man voices in the background, it is my home. We are doing home improvements right now, and so if you hear that just giggle a little bit because I've got contractors and electricians and everything working on stuff.
Dr. Weisman: So, anyway, besides that, so you know with each podcast, I try to have my guests pick a word and we will talk about that. And today our word is transformation. Dr. Ali tell us why transformation was your word?
Dr Ali Novitsky: So transformation is my word because I really believe that we are transforming all the time. And I think that it's very easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and sometimes that's wonderful, but then sometimes it can feel a little boring. You might feel a little restless. I know, as physicians, I think we can relate that we always kind of feel like we need to be moving, need to be doing something, because it's part of how we were trained. And so transformation to me, basically is a hope that you can be as happy as you're ever been today, you can be whoever you want to be. You can actually live whatever life you want to live. So you have that power and the more I learned about the coaching that I'm doing, with the cognitive coaching, our thoughts control everything. So our thoughts have the ability to kind of transform our life. So I just think it's very powerful and I'm excited because I think that we really, no matter what circumstance we're dealing with, we really have the ability to create what we want.
Dr Ali Novitsky: So I think we can transform into anything or anyone that we want to do.
Dr. Weisman: And I think that is so hopeful because in today's health care world, at times there feels like there's no control. And there feels like there's no to morph the practice that you're in into something different. Like you're stuck and you're trapped in it. And I hear so many people, when I do coaching as well, that they just say, "I'm just stuck." Or I hear the words, "I'm hopeless." And I think focusing on ... I love what you said about that transformation to you is the hope that you can be as happy as possible. Oh my gosh. Of course! But somewhere along the lines, don't you think that it almost gets beat out of us through medical training and just the process of the day to day?
Dr Ali Novitsky: Absolutely. So it's really funny you bring that up because I've actually been really reflecting on exactly what you just said a lot lately. So I really, for myself anyway, and I don't know if you can relate to this, but in medicine we are so busy and we have so much expectation, even early in training, to just be kind of everything for everybody. To really take care of really intense situations that can be really emotional.
Dr Ali Novitsky: The issue that I found, and it took me a while to figure this out ... And it's funny because the blog I actually wrote this weekend has everything to do with it, we don't allow ourselves to actually process the emotion.
Dr. Weisman: Absolutely.
Dr Ali Novitsky: We never really say it's okay to feel sadness or hurt because we have to be strong for our patient. We have to show up with our game face so that we can take care of them. So a lot of times we don't give ourselves the time to process our own emotion. So I think a lot of times, what you just said, kind of about being in the day to day it's ... I think that that does contribute to the burnout a little bit because when you're more aware of your emotions you can really just learn to sit with them and just really be able to process them and not be afraid of them. And once you're not afraid of your emotions, the power is all yours to do whatever you want to do with it.
Dr. Weisman: Oh my God. Absolutely. I think this is so huge. I am so glad to hear to say this because that's one of the huge thing that I do whenever I come across anybody that comes to be with burnout. Because the first thing that I always talk with people about, and I want this audience to know, is that as physicians we are armored up. So I'll be honest, I will admit, I am a big Game of Thrones fan. With all of the boobs and all of the sex and everything else on it, I am a huge fan. And it's just something about knights and dragons, but what I'm getting at is when I say armored up, I think about those knights that are going out. They're getting ready for this really hard gritty battle. And you know, at times, as physicians, that is what we're doing.
Dr. Weisman: Yesterday, during my shift, I had to tell a woman that she came in for confusion and slurred speech, that she had a brain tumor. And then I had to pick up and go to the next room and take care of my next patient. And you better believe that there is ... We are strong. We are resilient. And that's the first thing I talk about when I'm doing my burn out coaching is that there has to be a safe place that you strip down that armor. And I think where that comes from is from these conversations with colleagues, because, first of all, we're not gonna take our armor off unless it's a trusting relationship and there is mutual respect. I think finding that is so powerful. That's why I'm such a big advocate for colleague to colleague calls where groups ... Where we get together with other like-minded physicians or colleagues that we can say, "I had a really hard encounter, I just really need to talk through this."
Dr. Weisman: And I think the other thing, too, that we're terrible at ... And, I am, I'm gonna blame our training about it because it was never brought up when I was training in family medicine, this naming emotions. We do a terrible job at saying, "I am sad." Or, "I am terrified in this situation." Or, "I am really hopeless because one of my patients just lost her baby." And I feel like it's time in our generation to say, "We can no longer be stoic, because we are human too. And by being the best humans that we can be, we have also gotta allow ourselves to feel that." To muddle around in all those emotions. And in that I think there's a lot of healing for ourselves, to be able to say, "I just told a woman that she has brain cancer, and it almost hurt me that I was so flat with it." You know, that, yes, I was empathetic and we talked through the details and we got her set up, but I was almost disappointed in myself yesterday because I didn't feel any emotion.
Dr Ali Novitsky: You gave me chills because you ... I'm not even kidding you, could have literally written what I just wrote and you made me think of two things. I am not even kidding you. So what you just said, you're running from room to room and you're not able to really process that emotion. You have to be stoic, you have to there. So I had just written, I call it ice water in your veins, because when I first started neonatology, I would show up to a potentially complicated delivery and I just start shivering. I would get freezing cold-
Dr. Weisman: Right!
Dr Ali Novitsky: I didn't know what it was, but I knew it worked for me. I knew that when I felt that way, I was going to perform. And now I'm like, "That was adrenalin." That was my [inaudible 00:11:11] right? Because it came to the point that, you know, you never say to a colleague, "Hey. That was a really tough situation, were you like really scared?" You would never. We would never have that conversation.
Dr. Weisman: No. We wouldn't. And training ... Especially because then it would be like, "What do you mean, Dr. Weisman?" You know?
Dr Ali Novitsky: Right. Right. And you made me think of something else when you said that you felt bad that you didn't feel the emotion, because so many times when people ask me, "Well, what do you do?" And I say, "Well, I'm a neonatologist." And they say, "Well what's that?" And I say, "Well it's a doctor that take care of sick babies in the intensive care nursery." And they say, "Oh my Gosh. That much be so hard. How do you do it? How do you handle it?" And I have the same feeling that you have. I feel bad that my emotion feels flat because that's what ... Our emotion is flat, because that's how we do our job.
Dr. Weisman: It is. It is.
Dr Ali Novitsky: So these days, like what you said, having a safe space to have that conversation and to feel those feelings is what I would also agree would be an amazing thing to bring back to this generation. Right?
Dr. Weisman: And don't you feel like maybe with coaching, maybe we're going to get there. I know that we're a small group, in that we both perform as physician and life coach, but I do ... I feel like when I coach other physicians, not that it's not special when I coach other professional moms, but it is colleague to colleague and you know that you are right there with them. You can stare them in the eye and you get something really profound. It's just amazing. And then I know that with my people, then they go out into their jobs the next day and they're like, "It was the worst situation, but it was the best day that I have had." Just because they were unable to unpack some of that baggage. One question that I always ask people, and I would have our audience think about it, what are those patient stories that even after years, you still think about? I know I have them.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Absolutely.
Dr. Weisman: I can think all the way back to a fourth year medical student story that I had with a patient. I don't even know that I've really ever shared it, but that woman, she still is a part of my own story. And she still comes into play with that. And I almost think of it as an honoring of her, when I can release that into the world and release that with other physicians, and being like ... I'll tell you. Here.
Dr. Weisman: It was my critical care rotation for my fourth year. I had already matched, I already knew I was going into family medicine, but I ... In my own mind I thought that if I could hack it in critical care, then that would prove that I was a bad ass. So I was doing this month of critical care and taking care of this lady and she had end stage COPD, she had a bunch of pulmonary fibrosis. She was going to be bed bound. And her family came to the decision ... I think she had a embolic ... I can't remember all of it. So she also had a stroke. They came to the decision that they were gonna withdraw the vent support. And I remember being a part of that with my attending. And it wasn't the physical act of removing the intubation, or anything like that, I sat with that family for four hours.
Dr. Weisman: And it was the most awkward, beautiful, crazy situation, as a student. And I know that it was impactful to me, I know it was impactful for that nurse that I was working with, that she knew that I was there most of my shift. Just with that family. And it's one of those that ... She didn't even pass. I had to go home because I had to be back there at 5:00 AM. But it's just one of those that I just continue to think about. That I sat with that woman in her final hours.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yeah. And then when you ... That has stuck with you. So it just shows you that you had a ton of emotion with that and you still carry that with you. And you were able to process it in a way that really helped you in your career.
Dr Ali Novitsky: One of the stories I have, I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second and one of my colleagues was pregnant also. So we were both pregnant, we were like two weeks apart. And she was on call in the unit I work in ... And I still moonlight there, so I still do work clinically. What happens is there's only one attending on overnight and if there's gonna be twins born then you call in your second attending. So she called me in, because I was her second attending, and we had these 24 week babies that were going to be born. So we were there. Everything went great. It was text book. Resuscitation, they made it back to the NICU perfectly fine, and they were all situation. The babies wound up doing very well.
Dr Ali Novitsky: So it's funny because you know you get paid a little bit extra when you get called in? So the money that I made I bought this really fluffy rug that I really wanted, but I wouldn't have bough it if it didn't mean anything, because it's kind of just a rug. Well I bought that rug to put in my daughter's nursery, and I almost didn't as a tribute to like ... It was for these ... I'll always remember those babies. Because they kind of changed me. I was 20 weeks pregnant and I could have had my baby at 24 weeks, right? And this mom did have her baby at 24 weeks. So it was kind of like I was pregnant at the same time as this mom, this blanket, was like just a memory in my journey through life. And just the different experiences.
Dr Ali Novitsky: So it almost a tribute, I feel. And I still have that rug and I still think about those babies. So it's just like that will always stay with me. There was a lot of emotion involved in that, you know?
Dr. Weisman: Absolutely. And that brings up another great point that I don't think I have every heard any information about, but it is the act of being a female physician and being pregnant. And that transformational journey, in and of itself, I feel like that was ... And I've done in three times now, so I feel like each time has been so huge and so transformational as far as we kind of know the big, bad, scary, and ugly shit that could happen during pregnancy, during deliver, postpartum. And yet, somehow ... I just find it crazy. I was just with a colleague. She is due ... She was due in ten days. I worked with her this weekend. And I just look at her and I think at the time when you're pregnant and you're practicing, you just kind of brush it off, but now of course retrospectively I'm thinking about it, and I'm like, "Gosh. There is so much going on right then."
Dr. Weisman: You know, they talk about pregnancy brain, but as doctors we don't get the change to have pregnancy brain like everybody else does. You have to stay on it. Yet things like that do happen and even like patient interactions get weird or different or they mean more when you're carrying your own child and you're taking care of maybe another pregnant mom. And just with all of that. And I mean, I think, especially you could probably speak to that. Being a pregnant attending taking care of these high risk deliveries, and taking care of these new lives. Tell me a little bit about that transformation that you kind of see within yourself and your practice.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yeah. So it's really interesting. So with my first baby, I was at my last year as a neonatology fellow, and I can remember I wasn't able to really feel excited about the pregnancy because I was so worried that she was-
Dr. Weisman: Yes.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Going to be too early.
Dr. Weisman: Yes.
Dr Ali Novitsky: And so I remember saying, people would say, "Oh my gosh. You must be so excited." And I felt guilty because I did, but I didn't.
Dr. Weisman: Yeah. Because you can't get excited about it because you know the horrible, terribly things that could happen.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yeah. Exactly. And so I can remember being 28 weeks and I said, "When I get to 30 weeks, I'll be excited."
Dr. Weisman: Oh my God! I did the same thing!
Dr Ali Novitsky: And so, you know, the whole thing is that at first there was guilt because I'm like that is horrible. How horrible that I am not 100% thrilled excited? But then I gave myself grace and space because I realized that it's my training that's caused my thinking that's given me this different feelings because I've seen ... Like you said. We've seen just different things.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Now in my second one, I was definitely ... I felt a little calmer, but the thing that was interesting at that point was that when I would go to do consults on a mom that came in with pre-term labor and I was clearly pregnant, the guilt came again. Like me thinking that the mom was judging me saying, "While she's still pregnant. She can't really talk to me." But that was me generating that thought. I made that up. The mom probably just wanted to make sure that I was going to give good care to her baby.
Dr. Weisman: Absolutely.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Maybe the mom was looking at me and being like, "Oh my gosh. There's a pregnant mom too, she totally understands. She's going to take really good care of baby." So she could have been perceiving the situation in a very positive way, maybe, and I was more worried about offending her, right?
Dr. Weisman: Absolutely. Absolutely. I had the exact same experience too when I was still doing OB and I was actually pregnant with my first and second one. And you do, you almost ... And nobody talks about that. Nobody talks about that when you get pregnant as a doctor that there's going to be thoughts that come up that are going to influence your patient care if you don't check them or if you don't step back and be like, "Is this my own perception? Or is this the patient's perception?"
Dr. Weisman: And really all that we need to do is just ask our patients. I remember one mom I was taking care of, our due dates were like two weeks apart. Mine was coming first. So I had already teed her up to tell her, I'm probably going to be on maternity leave, but I introduced her to all my resident partner colleagues. Who would be on the team, who would be there. And even trying to do that, I still got a call, I think I was like ten days postpartum that this patient wanted me to come in and deliver. And, gosh, yeah there was guilt about it, but there was a little anger, like, "Damn it. I just had a baby ten days ago. We talked about this."
Dr. Weisman: But after I got to see them and followup because I'm a crazy woman, and I only took like five weeks off, so I got to come back while she was still doing her well-baby checks really early and all that sort of thing. We kind of talked through it and it ended up being okay. And talking with her and asking her like, "Hey! What was the deal? I'm sorry but there just no way I could come in. I was exhausted." My head was not in the game at that point. She said, "I love you so much. I really wanted you to be here for the second one." Because I had delivered the first one.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yeah.
Dr. Weisman: And that took all those feels away. Because I was honest. Because I just didn't swallow it down and be like, "How could she be like that?" But then go in to those followup appointments and play nice doctor. But I was just really raw and open with her that I got to see really how she felt about it. And that resolved that. That was then no longer and issue and I went on to take care of the kids and her until I moved on to my private practice. So, yeah, I'm just glad that we have this podcast to put it out there. Because I know there has to be hundreds of thousands of other of us out there in the world because we're fertile, we have babies. We also practice medicine. To say that there are some issues that we definitely kind of have to go through a transformation for.
Dr. Weisman: I think that's probably true too, when I take care of these patients and I can say, "Okay. From the doctor perspective blah blah blah blah blah." And from my mother perspective of having three kids, your baby's okay. Like when I can do that with patients, I think that ... And I used to think that that was not appropriate, but it is so appropriate. That is what people crave. They want to know, not the white coat, but the woman doctor under the white coat.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yep. It's the vulnerability sometimes that I think takes the most confidence to actually show. So admitting you're human. Admitting that you're a person too. Admitting that you're having that same struggles. Instead just letting down that whole idea that we have to have it all together all the time. Medically, yes, when you're taking care of the patient, but it can also be different. I think you have to show a little bit of that side of yourself. A little bit of that vulnerability. It is helpful to patients sometimes.
Dr. Weisman: Definitely. Definitely. And I hope as we move forward in healthcare more, that instead of that being the zebra, that it's actually more of the horse and that ... I don't know. I just feel maybe that would ... That's maybe the secret sauce when we talk about patient satisfaction and all that kind of thing. So it's evidently getting them into their appointment within 60 seconds when they check in, but more so that they're like, "You know, I really connect with my doctor. That's why I stay with her." And I always, my line is, "I'm not the smarted doctor, but you damn well believe that I will work hard for you." And I think that helps people to know ... And you know we think about malpractice and liability and just the world that we live in as far as that, but I really find that if you are honest with people like that and they do know your heart, they seem to accept things a little bit better.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yeah. It's funny you say that. So my dad is actually an author and he wrote a book called The Malpractice Epidemic. And what he came to the conclusion of is just that communication is everything. You can communicate with your patient, like malpractice ... It becomes less of an issue. So, again, that's a whole loaded can of worm topic, we don't even have to go there, but what you just said. That, yeah, being able to relate to your patient and communicate with them. For sure.
Dr. Weisman: Well, we will come back. We'll talk about that next time then, because this has been so great that you must come back. We must have more conversations about all of this.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yes. Definitely.
Dr. Weisman: Okay. So for people who are listening, what is going to be the best way that they connect with you or find out more about you? Tell me all the different venues that you're in right now.
Dr Ali Novitsky: Yes. Okay. So my website is MindBodyMarriage.com and that is the name of my company Mind Body Marriage. My email is simple Doctor D-R, dot Ali A-L-I, at Mind Body Marriage dot com. And I take emails and all that good stuff. But my website kind of says it all and then our podcast is Resuscitate Your Marriage, Love RX for Physicians. And we are on episode three, which we'll be posting a little bit later this week. You can find it on iTunes, but you can also get it right on my website. And follow along because just talk a lot about what we talked about today, in terms of the life coaching and we talk a lot about transforming your marriage. And kind of you as an individual to make a better marriage. And it's one of the things we're really passionate about. So, yeah, that's kind of what I have going on.
Dr Ali Novitsky: And then I also do some of the health directing for my friend's company Brave Enough, Sasha Shillcutt, and I will be at the Brave Enough Conference at the end of November and I will be speaking there. And then I actually will be ... She's having a retreat, Brave Enough will be having a retreat in Florida in January. It's a real intimate setting, if there are any women physicians interested, there are still three spots. We opened up ... It's actually going to be amazing. It's in these mansions. We rented two mansions. It's gonna be just kind of coaching, life advancement, healing, massages, pictures, dinners, cooking classes, I'm doing some exercise classes. But there are still spots for that, so you would just go to her website, which is BecomeBraveEnough.com.
Dr Ali Novitsky: And that's kind of what I've got going on right now and really excited about it. Really excited to be here, so I'm really thankful that you've made this happy for me today. So thank you so much.
Dr. Weisman: Yes. That's awesome. And just for the audience, I emailed Ali and she got back to me in like ten seconds. And so we're now new best friends because I love when pay attention to emails. So if anything resonated with you today, please drop her a line, I know she would love to hear from you. And I know that the more that we can talk with each other, the most that we can have interconnectivity, the better our life, our practice, and our own pulse, is definitely going to be.
Dr. Weisman: So, thanks so much, everybody!
Dr. Weisman: Don't you just love this topic of transformation? I mean, we really do have it if we look back on our lives, just how transformed we have come from a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, even 15-20 year ago. Just the amazing journey of transformation through life and medicine. And what I'm gonna do today is throw that question at you that I pose in the interview about what are the patient stories that you have in your own heart that you still think about even as time has passed? I had shared a couple and Dr. Ali Novitsky had shared a couple as well, but I would love for you to kind of dig into those stories and see what is about it that continues to stay connected to you? How has that transformed your life? Is it something positive that you remember and that's what keeps it? Or is something more on the negative side, and it almost is haunting you? So I would have you dig into that question and think about those people and how they have transformed you.
Dr. Weisman: As always, thank you so much for joining me today on Doctor Me First. I truly hope that it has doctored your soul first. And again, I would love to hear from you in any way, manner, shape, or form, that you would. Leave a review. Come and join me on the Doctor Me First Facebook page. Or if you're looking for more community, check out the Doctor Me First VIP group that's gonna start soon in February and see if you want to spot in there. Again it's meeting Tuesday nights, twice a month for three months where we work through all of our issues kind of in this open forum setting.
Dr. Weisman: And, hey, remember to do that favor for me! Share this podcast with all of your favorite female physicians in your life because my goal is always to reach as many as possibly and remind you and myself that we are not alone in medicine, that burn out and struggle is not a personal failing, that how help is absolutely available and that change is possible. I would love for you to be a guest our talk with you one on one. Follow the links in the show note, and thanks again for joining me.
Dr. Weisman: Well that's another Doctor Me First in the bag. I'm so glad for you to join me today and I'm so glad to have spoke with Dr. Ali Novitsky. Now here's your call of action today after all of this, I need more guests. If you have MD or DO behind your name and you can think of one word to have a conversation about, you qualify to be on this podcast and I would love to talk to you. So check out the show notes, get the link, get scheduled, and let's have a freaking awesome time together.
Dr. Weisman: Hang in there! And always remember your life, your calling, your pulse matters.
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