I felt saddened and frustrated reading the comments of primary care physicians in a survey released by The Physicians' Foundation this past November. Once passionate about medicine and dedicated to their patients, they are now burnt out and despairing, overwhelmed by increasing paperwork, bureaucracy, and government regulations. Sixty percent of the respondents said they would not recommend medicine as a career to young people. In their column, “Primary Care CME: Make it Practical,” on page 16, Ann Lichti and Harold Magazine share suggestions for developing activities that can help physicians find more job satisfaction, despite the huge systemwide obstacles confronting them.

The doctors' reactions are similar to what I've been hearing from CME and medical meeting professionals. It's your passion for helping healthcare providers help their patients that motivates many of you, but like the doctors surveyed, you feel straitjacketed by ever-changing and confusing guidelines and rules. Unfortunately, the regulatory squeeze is only going to intensify on a state, national, and international level. Add in the economic downturn and it's no surprise that many of you are feeling demoralized.

How do you stay motivated and passionate about your jobs during these volatile times? One way is to become more strategic. You can't solve the nationwide healthcare crisis, but you can envision solutions to challenges within your organization or the profession. Perhaps you have ideas for developing CME activities that can boost physician morale, for example, or for designing meeting sponsorships that comply with the updated PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. Internet point-of-care and performance improvement activities are examples of newer approaches to CME that fit into physicians' hectic schedules and meet their need for self-directed learning. What's next — and how do we get there? We have to build environments where creative thinking can flourish.

In his book “A Whole New Mind,” business expert Daniel H. Pink says that in order for organizations to succeed in the future, they need to shift from a left-brain to a right-brain approach — valuing and empowering staff who are inventive, empathetic, and can combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.

Creativity requires time. In The New Age of Innovation, C. K. Prahalad and M. S. Krishnan say that if organizations want new ideas, they need to free employees to spend 20 percent of their time on “blue sky” projects. Sound impossible? Freeing up even some of your own and your staff's time to focus on big-picture solutions can not only re-energize you, it can help protect your job. During the West Coast Medical Device and Bio/Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum, participants from one company discussed how they outsourced their tactical responsibilities and concentrated on strategic issues — building a “brain trust” of internal meeting managers. This approach saved their jobs because they were able to implement new cost-reduction measures, demonstrating their value to upper management. While you can outsource the logistical aspects of meeting management, you can't outsource “the thinking part,” said Cindy D'Aoust, Maritz Travel Co., one of the conference facilitators. (See page 32.)

It's “the thinking part” that often gets sidelined by daily emergencies and multiplying tasks, especially during tough and scary periods — but it's precisely in times such as we are facing now that we need more than ever to take a risk and invest in creativity.