By: Dr. Tomi Mitchell
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In this episode, I, your host, Dr. Tomi Mitchell, had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Laura Fortner
About our Guest
Dr. Fortner is an OBGYN Hospitalist, Speaker, and Coach. She has turned her pain into purpose. She herself was sued and went through all the emotions of anger, fear, shame, and helplessness. Through her journey of healing the Med, Mal Coach was born.
She now is an expert in litigation stress and she helps physicians thrive through medical malpractice.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 0:07
Hello everyone, this is your host Dr. Tomi Mitchell from the mental health and wellness Show. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Dr. Laura Fortner. She is an OBGYN, hospitalist, speaker and coach. She has turned her pain into purpose. She herself was sued and went through all emotions of anger, fear, shame and helplessness through her journey of healing. The med mal coach was born. She is now an expert in litigation stress, and she helps physicians thrive medical malpractice. With no further ado, Dr. Laura, thank you to the show. Thank you for coming.
Dr. Laura Fortner 0:42
Yeah, thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 0:44
Oh, it is honestly my pleasure. I applaud you for stepping up to the plate to talk about this very personal experience that as physicians and you know, anyone else who's gone through a situation that they're not proud of, it's hard to talk about sometimes, and it's painful. It's not it threatens your sense of value like your worst like really like why you know, but I guess with these this profession call medicine we have to embrace the good bad and the ugly that can come with it and OBGYN are unfortunately up there when it comes to dealing with this kind of stress.
Dr. Laura Fortner 1:20
Yeah, so it's funny because I think you know, being in the medical profession, you know, as you do your training and your residency and all that and you get out you do feel infallible like you feel like you know, you know what you're doing you're good communicator, that won't happen to me. And the statistics are it's actually normal. So getting sued for medical malpractice and high risk specialties like the surgical fields, OBGYN, even ER, if you practice till you're 65, 99% of us will be named in a lawsuit and those in low risk specialties it's 75%. So it's, it's the norm, but the funny thing is, is we walk around and shame thinking it shouldn't have happened to us. And and I think some of it is because of stocks, we mix up who we are with what we do.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 2:11
Our MD is like your identity that's like it's defines you and what society thinks that MD means and what your colleagues and yourself but your patients.
Dr. Laura Fortner 2:21
Yeah, for sure. And so I think that mixing up because, you know, other professions get sued, right? Like for malpractice, I mean, lawyers and insurance companies and corporate execs, like they get sued but they understand that it's business and like they can separate that out but for us who've spent our whole lives in medicine, sacrificing actually sacrificing at the expense of our family, really I mean, because look all the events that we miss from first steps of our babies to you know, soccer games, sporting events, family events, all that stuff, we miss putting patients first and when something like this happens, it's it's shakes us it really. It's it's a moral injury to us.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 3:04
Yes, you you've nailed it. I love the term moral injury, right? Because we we have these high ethics and the sense of sacrifice and duty. And like you said, during that process, this long journey of becoming a physician and being a physician, because it doesn't just end when you get board certified. It's like a continuous process of staying up to date, date or certifications, etc, etc. Um, we do miss out on things. We're expected to miss out on things.
Dr. Laura Fortner 3:31
Yeah, I think that's what the key is, we are expected all the way are these the extreme beings of having to do something and we'll say we're fine. But when we're when we're really not, you know, because that's what we're expected to be we're expected to be this person. And I think we have this culture of perfectionism that is embedded in everything that we do. And so it really causes us harm and suffering when something like this happens because we can't reconcile, gosh, you know, was there a mistake? You know, if and if there was, that's normal, right? Like Mistakes happen, complications happen in anything that we do.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 4:10
Yes, good things happen to good people that they're part of it but we don't embrace that and accept that physicians and I and I know many of them professionals, but because we have both physicians, we know how hard it is to get into medical school that into residency, stay in there, get through it get through boards, it's hard. So we're already a subset of society who are a little neurotic little perfectionism somewhat right type a pardon ourselves, and then who human beings trying to embrace this like Superman, Superwoman suit or invincible though we're supposed to be all for everything because that's what we've said we will do. But the crazy thing called life there are things that are outside of our control, outside our control.
Dr. Laura Fortner 4:56
Yeah. And that's the thing. It's like, you can follow this standard of care to a tee and most of us do.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 5:03
Dr. Laura Fortner 5:03
But bad outcomes occur. And that's why I love to speak on. My title is like good. Doc's get sued. Because this again, is a lot of times out of our control, we can do all the preventative stuff that we know. And I have a whole thing where that I talk about avoiding litigation, but at the end of the day, it's not in our hands, whether somebody sue's us or not. And it's really what they decide. And so all we can do can do is control our response, and really being able to learn how to heal through the process. Because what happens in our culture is it's so taboo to talk about, right? We're not supposed to talk about it, I was just saying how I came out and just like publicly told people on social media that I got sued for medical malpractice I'm and I think I'm the only one doing it like anybody else doing that right now. But, but I think just just being that person and being the decision advocate, because that's really what I like I am because this tablism of talking about it actually perpetuates the problem.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 5:03
Dr. Laura Fortner 5:10
Cuz does not able to heal from something like this.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 5:25
100%. And you know, I'm just looking at the time of this recording, because I don't typically release the same time I recorded I literally, it was International Women's Day 2022 I have the courage to post a letter to my clinic that I had in my heart for years. And that was basically I reached my breaking point, I need time to heal from the trauma. And to be the human I need to be the wife and the mother I need to be, right? I mean, like you said, it's scary coming out, especially when it gets attention, good, bad and ugly. But most people feel that they don't actually help us see it, but it takes lady balls. Okay, ball speeds to be able to like I am doing this not just for myself, but also to help the future doctors coming up.
Dr. Laura Fortner 6:58
Yeah, that's really what I want to do. I want to be that advocate for them. Our system is breaking and doctrina that I know all too well. I mean, I my lawsuits gone on almost a decade. And it's been insane from dismissal to get reinstated to trial to appeal after appeal. And so it's a long process. And the system, quite frankly, is can be improved.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 7:25
Dr. Laura Fortner 7:28
Yes. And the thing is, is we're talking about a body of people right now that I think are on the brink medical professionals in general on the brink due to the pandemic and all the things of this burnout and you need to heal themselves because they have put this medical profession on a pedestal and it's been first first first for everything and they've done what is expected of them at the cost.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 7:52
Dr. Laura Fortner 7:52
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 7:53
Dr. Laura Fortner 7:54
And the trauma. And so you talk about trauma, and this is something that it when you get sued in medical malpractice is actually like PTSD. And you can go from litigation stress to medical malpractice stress disorder, which is in the DSM. So it's it's an entity that is real. Dr. Sarah Charles, a psychiatrist had done all this research way back in the 90s. About this and how the trauma that induced in physicians, and physicians couldn't talk about it. So there was no healing going on. So it is a big thing. And kudos to you.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 7:54
Dr. Laura Fortner 7:56
For doing that for yourself.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 8:02
And you know what, you mentioned a really good point that hit home and I'm going to say it because I'm an open book. Like, I've never been sued. However, I've been the physician who's had like college, you know, improve like, I think what was it, I failed to respond in a timely manner about prescribing. And because of that, I was charged with unprofessionalism, and then where I practiced, everything hits the fan, everyone knows, but the fact is, I was dealing with my own OBGYN complications at that time, like preterm labor at 20 weeks of pregnancy, you know, just like drowning in personal things, plus, being an owner of a clinic plus being expected to be at this high standard, regardless of what was going on in my life. And you're right, that did cause some PTSD, trauma. Right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 9:16
Yeah. And yeah, and I think the thing is, is, you know, just that that wording in that language that shows you is, you know, it's like, we have to be this perfectionistic person. And the bottom line is we're human, we are human, we are human beings practicing, we're doing the very best that we can with all of the medicine that we have. We do the research, we know what we're doing. And you know, what's funny, too, is with these cases, and even in you know what happened with you like most of the time, if we could sit back and look at both perspectives, and have a better way of approaching each other.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 9:55
Dr. Laura Fortner 9:56
From the lens of trying to sit in that other person's shoes. We could go so much farther as a population in humans in general, and in the medical profession. And so, you know, I know some of this is, you know, people talk about mediation and all those kinds of things. And that's the formal term, but I'm just saying, like, you know, we're real people at the end of the day on both ends. And what happen is we get objectified, you know. Yeah.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:22
It's it's really sad and you mentioned wording, right? And then the connotation and, and not realizing the impact the situation has on both people, not not only those the plaintiff or whoever, but the defendant.
Dr. Laura Fortner 10:36
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:36
Dr. Laura Fortner 10:37
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:38
Sentimental, emotional impact. In some cases, you're left hanging literally, like you're, you're just, you know, like, you're beaten up.
Dr. Laura Fortner 10:46
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 10:46
And then they say, but while you're being beat up, continue being on top of your game. 24/7. Literally.
Dr. Laura Fortner 10:53
Yes. It's so funny. You say this, because the American Medical Association actually came out with a statement saying the biggest harm to litigation was emotional injury of the defendant. And same with this, the same scenario. I mean, I know you weren't sued, but like, it's the same sort of connotation. And when we get served papers, I had a sheriff come to my door, like a couple days after the holidays with my kid answering the door serving me papers, because they plaintiff's attorneys like to do those kinds of things. And you know, when I was served, and you start reading it, the language is just
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:30
Dr. Laura Fortner 11:31
Feels like you. You have.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:33
Done something horrible deliberately.
Dr. Laura Fortner 11:35
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:37
Dr. Laura Fortner 11:37
Yes, yeah, yeah.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:39
Definitely, I completely. I completely hear. For me. It came when I was like, I think I was in emergency induction of my labor when I got the letter. And I was just like, fine. Sure. A sign? Yeah, sure. Okay.
Dr. Laura Fortner 11:53
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 11:54
You know, it's like.
Dr. Laura Fortner 11:55
Yeah, and I like to say this, because maybe some physicians can identify with what we're talking about right now. And they're listening to this. And, you know, they've been through something like you, or maybe something like me and been sued. And one of the things one of the easiest things they can do right away is they could think about if this were happening to a really good friend, colleague, right now, if this were happening to that good friend, write down exactly what you would say to that friend, and then say it to yourself, and start learning some self compassion. Because normal, what happens with us? I mean, these things happen, they happen. And it doesn't mean that we're bad physicians,
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:35
Dr. Laura Fortner 12:35
But we want to we make it mean something, right?
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:38
100%. And speaking of bad physicians, I sometimes feel that it's in that pursuit of being of excellence of China go above and beyond and showing some of your humanity is when you open yourself up to vulnerability.
Dr. Laura Fortner 12:54
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:55
As a human.
Dr. Laura Fortner 12:56
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:56
Dr. Laura Fortner 12:57
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 12:58
I'm proud of you for opening up and sharing this because you are not alone. I know. In my case, when I opened up the mic came to me saying, I've done my practice, basically, like my little town where I live, it's like, every news person got a hold of me, it like has stirred up a lot of stuff. But I mean, we needed to talk about burnout, frustration, the the imbalance, like humanity, and what is happening to this profession that we both love when we both been in for over a decade. Right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 13:28
Right, right. And if we don't do this, now, this profession is not going to stand I mean this, there's, people are leaving in droves right now, a lot of physicians are deciding, I'm just going to retire early, or I'm just going to be done with this part of practice. Or I'm, you know, because of what's happening, and you know, who's going to take, I guess, from from my point of view, or the physicians point of view is like, who's gonna take care of you got, you know, like that population? If we, it's got to be a two way street? In some sense.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 14:02
I agree. Because we need them just like they need us. Right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 14:06
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 14:06
I mean, we continue to have children and questions with their reproductive organ. Right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 14:12
Right. Totally. And there's, you know, things happen and they need to see us for things so it's, it's really good to just kind of really learn each other's perspectives and then be able to maybe come together I think one of the biggest downfalls especially when COVID hit and start this isolation and not being connected has really taken a toll and this is exactly what happens with things that you know, something like that that happened to you and and getting sued you know, we're I'm walking around in the hospital, not supposed to say anything, because that's what we're told. And by a friend over here has the same thing going on with her and she's not supposed to tell me right and so which is ludicrous, actually what they should be saying instead of saying, you can't tell talk about it. What they should say is you can't talk about the chart or the details. But you can talk about how you're feeling emotionally how it affect us, and go get help. And that's, I mean because if we have.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 15:11
Go get help, what do you mean sounds so funny. We can help? You mean talk to a shrink so you're crazy. What? Are you able to practice? Your temperature? Are you okay?
Dr. Laura Fortner 15:22
It's so true. It's exactly true. Because this this, my whole point is we tell our patients to go get help when they need help through emotional stuff. And then we don't follow our same advice. And a lot of that is because and we can go on about this, but those questions on hospital privilege applications, treated anyway or seen a therapist. Is that not a HIPAA violation, right?
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 15:46
Thank you and this is what I say about that. I said, everyone, as long as you have a heart and a brain, you're gonna have some mental health concern at some point, and we all should be seeing a therapist at some point, it should be like, you know, you know, Q2, monthly, whatever, PRN. And then obviously, at the set of cages, like it should just be standard for everyone. And we should stop this taboo because this is this is this whole taboo and secrecy and punitive mentality is what is hurting us and besides it physicians have the number one highest rate of suicide like Hello, there's a reason. There many reason, but there's part of life.
Dr. Laura Fortner 16:22
Yeah, which is so funny, they actually I just posted this, they polled and certain practices or specialties had higher rates of suicide, you know, and suicidal ideation. And there's no data on this. But I can imagine that, especially with the times right now getting slapped with a medical malpractice lawsuit on top of everything else, I I'm sure that that increases your risk of suicide, I am sure.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 16:27
Dr. Laura Fortner 16:36
That there is you know, and I do know of stories of physicians who got sued, and then it was all over the news and all these things, and they, they just ended their life. And it's not. These things shouldn't be taken lightly. And there is ways to improve this for sure. And I think it's one of the things that needs to be looked at. And this is one of the things why I'm so proud of like, I'm going to be that physician advocate, I actually have created a Facebook community for those that care about medical malpractice and want to be in the know and the updates, as well as also how to get through it. And it's it's just a free resource. And that's awesome. So if somebody wants to be a part of that, it's called we rise in the face of medical malpractice, they can go search for that group. And if they're a physician, they can come in.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 17:32
100%, that's awesome. We're gonna share all your contact details within the show notes. So listeners can share it. You know, what, this is a topic that should be like peppered throughout medical school or residency, it should be the norm. It's should be.
Dr. Laura Fortner 17:46
You're so right. And you know, what's funny is about the medical school education, you you might get a course or two and how to prevent that mitrigations. But there's nothing to prepare us on when this happens, and what to do, and that it's I don't even remember thinking it was normal to get sued. Like, I was thinking that was abnormal, you know?
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 18:08
Yeah. And not only that, I find it with medical schools, because it's sort of an academic center, right? It's a different beast than being in the community, per say. We may not have all the resources and everything else that you have a supports, right? It's I don't know exactly your background and when it happened for you, but I just it's like there's a it is training in medical school and residency, you know, where it's fairly structured, and this goes, and then there's real life when you're thrown to the lions. Well, if you especially if you're working in a small community where you're like that doctor or or just poop hits the fan, you just get an unfortunate situation that comes your way.
Dr. Laura Fortner 18:48
Right, right. And bad things happen. I mean, life is so witty, I mean, it's not we can't avoid it. It's not and to say that, you know, be this hush hush actually creates more shame in the practices. And we carry around this deep shame. Because, this is, oh, we can't talk about it. So secret is hush hush and bad. You know, it's kind of like that connotation of it's all bad and.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 19:16
Dr. Laura Fortner 19:16
Instead of, you know, gosh, this is normal. How can we actually come up with solution to have a better system in play, instead of the way things are right now? Because the way things are right now, it is a little unbalanced.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 19:28
Dr. Laura Fortner 19:30
Imbalance and you know, it's time to really take ownership and take take our authority back in some respects and fight for ourselves.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 19:41
Yes. And speaking of that, there's also the weaponization of these things. It's like a tool to use to like beat you over the head, like as a Europe bad person, when it's like, no, you could literally walk across the street and something could just happen. And it's like, was I a bad person? From looking both ways, and something did happen?
Dr. Laura Fortner 20:03
Right, right. Yeah, it's so true.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 20:06
It's some The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. But again, I'm so proud of the work you're doing. And I know I will be sharing this topic, this post this podcast now that people are starting to open because I think it's happening. There's just We've almost reached that breaking point or enough of us are starting to make a splash. And I'm like, gleefully, happy. You know, I remember who said about making good trouble. You gotta make our own good trouble because we need this because you love medicine. You remember that Oh, so you made you know why you went let us do truly help people. As cliche as that sounds, that is the truth. Because in some ways, it's easier putting your head into the Senate pretending it didn't happen. And actually saying, hey.
Dr. Laura Fortner 20:49
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 20:50
Dr. Laura Fortner 20:50
Yeah, right. Right. And I'm a, I'm a, you know, it's a lived experience that has an I'm just such a big advocate that the only thing that makes sense to me is to turn this pain into something that's so purposeful that that others can benefit from it for the future so that they don't have to go through what I went through. And I think one of the things too, that I'd love to see this is on a larger scale, like I work with physicians, one on one helping coach them through medical malpractice, but I also on a larger scale, want to get in front of Congress, I want to be, you know, to make create change for us. I think one of the biggest travesties right now is the fact that we're judged differently depending on where you live, instead of us when we all abide by our American College of specialty, whatever specialty you're in. So the American College of OBGYN is what I follow for standard of care. That's what most bodies say, is near to care for OBGYN. But yes, if I practice in Ohio versus another state, I am judged totally different.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 21:57
Dr. Laura Fortner 21:58
And certain expert witnesses are allowed to be in those states in certain certain expert witnesses have been kicked out because they're talking about theory instead of science. I mean, there's just so many inaccuracies and unjustness, depending on where you live. That, that to me is just probably the first step in like becoming aware of the fact like you can't it's just not just it's not fair that I you know, I basically should move to Indiana or Idaho because they have better malpractice rates and tort reform.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:32
Dr. Laura Fortner 22:34
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:34
The differences across the country is like, staggering.
Dr. Laura Fortner 22:39
It is. It is and.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:40
Dr. Laura Fortner 22:41
Yeah. And how is it fair that we're judged differently when we went in practice any differently if we went to a different state?
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:48
I know, right. Oh, will induce 39 weeks because you're in this state. And this they weren't? Like,
Dr. Laura Fortner 22:56
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:57
Dr. Laura Fortner 22:58
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 22:58
I'm the first, Oh, well none. And breach Oh, we'll just you know, we'll do this thing like, no, it's the same human body.
Dr. Laura Fortner 23:07
Yeah, it's the same steam standards that we're in the United States of America. And so we should be judged on the same standards as well. It's just not to say that this, this, this thing shouldn't go to trial, but then it goes to trial in other states, because there's no sort of body to say, is this frivolous or not? Right now, you know, it's, it's just crazy.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 23:34
And you know, speaking of like that being equal across states, they're gonna think that they should take in consideration and also cause them to maybe may think of changing things is not all regions have the same access to certain levels of care and support. And that needs to be taking into consideration whether you're in a tertiary center, or you're whether you're in like a mobile like tiny little place, and whatever, right.
Dr. Laura Fortner 23:58
Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 23:59
But, so that brings light to the bigger issues involved in medicine as far as like access to care. Like the standard.
Dr. Laura Fortner 24:07
Yeah. Right. Totally. I mean, it's just, there's there's a lot that needs to be I think, could be improved in our profession over the next 10, 20 years. And, and I hope I'm here to see something in this arena, some point.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 24:20
You will, you will, because you know, I try not physically living in Canada at the time of this recording, though I have trained in the US as well. So I've seen both sides. And I can say in Canada after you know, I am actually going to be in like the government of Congress the next few days to talk about these issues. And trust me, you can there's a method to the madness to get the message heard. And then once you've learned it, you just rinse and repeat. That's not a conversation, but I'm just saying.
Dr. Laura Fortner 24:51
Yeah, another conversation we totally should have.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 24:54
Oh, yeah. There is.
Dr. Laura Fortner 24:57
You know, trying to create some change in our world. So, so that we feel protected to because right now we are the scapegoats as the physician or the ones that that are responsible for everything. And we are the ones that get first pinpointed. It's because of you if there's something that goes wrong, and we need to change that, and I know during COVID, there was an immunity bill that was trying to get passed through Congress sitting in Congress. So it's not going anywhere at the moment hasn't gone anywhere, but it was to protect us during COVID. But I don't think it passed.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 25:30
Yeah, I don't think that passed anywhere. I, if anything, there was more motivation to get out of these thirsty money hungry physicians who were just so greedy. So we need to take a bite out of them.
Dr. Laura Fortner 25:43
Yeah, I think, yeah, that's the other fallacy. Right? I don't think I don't know. My son says he wants to go into medicine. I said, well, I'm not sure.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 25:54
I don't push my daughter's.
Dr. Laura Fortner 25:56
There's no money.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 25:57
Dr. Laura Fortner 25:58
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 25:59
No, there isn't. It's truly it's my community service to this world. That's what it really is, at least not in this part of the world. Yeah, it's not there's not the money that often not that respect of appreciation.
Dr. Laura Fortner 26:14
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 26:14
It's just in those, you know, what made me able to stay this long is the gratitude on the patient's face, when you say you may have a potentially horrible outcome, and you are able, by the grace of God, and also some luck or whatever, because not you could do everything right. And so you had bad things happen. But at least you were part of that moment. And that gave me joy. Right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 26:36
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 26:37
You know, I know for you that hearing the baby cry. Yeah, for the first time. And, you know, just.
Dr. Laura Fortner 26:42
Yeah, the special moments,
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 26:44
Those special moments
Dr. Laura Fortner 26:45
You really got into it. I mean, we all we are there's a certain personality, I think that goes into medicine. And we all do it because we we want to help people, we we have that altruistic view, and we most of us aren't in it for them. We didn't come into it for money. Um, but at the end of the day, when you're responsible, and you're the one being looked at when it comes to all these other facets, you know, most a lot of physicians and most physicians right now are saying I'm not sure it's worth it.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 27:15
Well, 100%, I more than half of physicians are saying that right now.
Dr. Laura Fortner 27:19
Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 27:20
And depending on the area and specialty, a big portion are saying that, so thank wake up. So let's back to you specifically with this litigation of stress, because anyone who's ever had anything to deal with court system that is stressful being served document and your home and your safety place with your family is stressful. How do you help physicians because there are many out there who are like you feel silenced, feel so scared, feel like they did something wrong? Or they're a bad person unable to separate their professional life from their personal life?
Dr. Laura Fortner 27:56
Yeah, so true. Yeah. So it's funny that most of the time, I think all of us and all the clients that I work with have the same things going on that even if there was no medical negligence, and most often all, the studies do show that there wasn't most cases, there is no medical negligence, the majority of them there is none. But physicians will still self doubt, they will still think maybe I did do something wrong, right? And this will go down a whole series of a story that our brain will make up on what this lawsuit means. And that whole story and that theme, which a lot of us go around thinking, Oh, maybe we're not as good as we thought we were right, or we're not that good of a doctor. And that theme will get played over and over and over again in your story. And really, what I love to do is I do several things with my clients, but one of them is I really tease apart what's really true and what's really not true and really talk about you know, this lawsuit is not what's causing the suffering. It's actually the story that you're telling yourself around the lawsuit that's causing the suffering. And we piece that out, we piece out what exactly it is that they're saying to themselves. And then we talk about how we can actually reverse that process. And so it's it's very detailed, it's integrated special for each person, although there's major themes that come across that most of us go through. And what's funny is we're talking about medical malpractice, but anybody getting served like a nasty divorce or whatever litigation stress is real and then too, it's not just, you know, medical malpractice, but I think the the issue with medical malpractice is the average case takes 4.7 years to get resolved. If it was not dismissed. Now, with all the cases that go on file for the year, about 50% of them get dismissed. The remainder of that get settled in 20% go to trial.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 29:55
That's been a lot.
Dr. Laura Fortner 29:56
Yeah, yeah. And and the good news is when you go to trial, you Usually the doctors in the past had been winning. Now, I don't know, I don't know if the times it sounds like the tide might be changing in that arena, actually. But in the past, um, defendants would more than not win, although there will be cases that they will not do so well. And even though there was no medical negligence, so again, but what what the facts of the lawsuit happen really is not what's causing our suffering, it's really the story and the thoughts that we're having surrounding this lawsuit. And it really again goes to us mixing up who we are with what we do, because we spend our whole life doing this. And so it's hard for us to separate that out, like you said, like, we can't separate out, you know, our job versus who we are as a person. And that's what we that's the work that gets done with me and my client. And when we work on that, it's so that they can and here's, I think one of the biggest things that, you know, I experienced so my case went on for a decade, I've been through every single part process of the legal system in the United States. And I have had every trigger, I think, known demand and every sort of emotional, physical symptom from, you know, anger, to fear, to shame, to helplessness, to feeling out of control, to self doubt, all of that stuff, which is litigation, stress, right? I've had all that. But when I went so in the process of my healing is when I had such major transformation, when I hired a life coach, even though I was resistant, I thought, Oh, my God, I don't I can't even believe I'm doing this right now. Believe that they worked seriously. And but I did it. And within a couple of months, I had major shifts and major transformations. And I could sleep at night, I had peace of mind, no matter what was going to happen with my lawsuit. And I think that's the biggest thing is like, we can't have peace of mind. We think that when the lawsuit ends, we're gonna have peace of mind. That can take five to 10 years, you know, if you're going through this process, and the thing is, is you could have peace of mind now, no matter what happens with a lawsuit.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 32:02
Dr. Laura Fortner 32:02
And not waste those years being in fear and having all the shame carried around, you know.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 32:09
Yes, piece of the storm can be asleep on the boat of bees. Chillin.
Dr. Laura Fortner 32:13
Yeah. And that's, that's where we, that's where I go with my clients, like, I help them get their joy back in medicine, too, because most of them want to quit when they come out.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 32:22
That is true. That was the next question like, what have you noticed as far as their desire to be in medicine after this point, especially if someone went through a very traumatic experience, right? Kind of, like, Oh, I love medicine, I just want to continue doing this for the rest of my life. So what else? But sue me for something?
Dr. Laura Fortner 32:38
No, they all say to me, almost the words every person's where the mouth is, I'm going to quit medicine, or I'm going to quit this part of my practice, or this is not worth it. Right? I'm not going to do this anymore. And it's really developing the skill to help them get that joy back to make that decision. Like they can make the decision if they still want to make that decision. But but let's be peace of mind that Matt now and let's have your joy back in medicine before you really make that decision because.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 33:05
Yes, yes and you know what, I think for many physicians, when they finally just kind of like to say when the love of medicine wanes, it may not be so much medicine itself. It's like part of it, the process the system, they still love the hands on, I want to help you, I want to diagnose the problem. And, you know, be the detective like, that's fun, that I enjoy it. I love getting those complicated cases that people maybe don't really know what to do with them, they kind of put my mind to it and be like house back in the day and figure it out. But I'm gonna do it every day. But I mean, I still enjoy that I enjoy the fact that I've used medicine and my skills to heal myself and my family. I've been an advocate for them. I enjoy that part. I just don't enjoy the unrealistic expectations, right? And the past two years has not helped. And for me as being a young mother with children that added an added layer of complexity that yeah, many of my male colleagues, and some of the women couldn't even put their selves to my situation.
Dr. Laura Fortner 34:06
Mm hmm. Yeah, it's when you're doing all of that you put all of like you are you there's no self care going on.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 34:14
Dr. Laura Fortner 34:15
There's no, it's it's all about others. And that's what we tend to do. And doing that to the nth degree leads to this burnout and moral injury and our coping mechanisms. We exhaust them, to the point of not being able to continue on. So it's, it's a big thing. And I'm, I'm hoping that, you know, through being, you know, an advocate and speaking out that more and more physicians will come out and say, you know, and this is is what's happening if I, if I go to a grand rounds and speak or I'll speak at another group of physicians, they will, someone will eventually say, you know what, I got sued too. I got sued too. So it's like, they will start saying that, but it's it's a movement to in some respect, but yeah, this is the movement.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 35:06
Yeah, it's almost like physicians need their own version of me to for, you know, like me too, like it's like it's normal. Well, it's not good. It's not good at this happening a lot but it is what it is, right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 35:17
Right, right? But it's normal and that normalize the conversation and let's not shy away from it and let's help to create a change so that both thing both sides can be improved in some respects, hiding behind the papers, just like hiding behind your paper that you had to sign right, like hiding behind these papers being an object instead of being human beings coming together to me is like, look, this happened, it was a complication. You know, apologizing is a good thing many times in our world, and really just showing that compassion and empathy to that other person and what they're going through is sometimes enough, um, and that they just needed to hear that, where and we don't even get to do any of that most of the time, because when this happens, it's like, you can't talk to anybody and you cannot talk to that party anymore at all right? So it's, it's very impersonal. Yes. The human humanizing for sure.
Yeah. I agree. Yeah. But it will change. Time will come. Yes. All of us to stand up. And this power in numbers. That's what I as physicians and leaders, I'm like, physicians, we are we are supposed to be leaders advocates, right?
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 36:23
We were in a position of privilege. But sometimes we forget it because we feel like that rights has been stripped by employers, especially care, usually by hospital group, whatever, or whatever it is, right?
Dr. Laura Fortner 36:35
So true. Yeah. Yeah. And we do forget that we put our heads down. And we just keep working, because that's what we're supposed to do.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 36:44
Dr. Laura Fortner 36:44
That's our personality. But but yet us we need to stand up for ourselves, too. And I think the power numbers is a big thing. This is one of these why I decided to create a movement because there needs to be power numbers. And I we need to stand up for ourselves because no one else is going to do it.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 36:59
Nobody else will. Exactly, exactly. Nobody else will. That is so true. The lawyers group are not going to stand up for a pay position. I love my fellow lawyers nah, like,
Dr. Laura Fortner 37:12
No. And the insurance company.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 37:13
The insurance company. Sure, isn't?
Dr. Laura Fortner 37:15
No, no one's gonna stand up for salving at us and that it's now it's we have to change it. If we want change. We've got to change.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 37:23
Yeah, I have to say physicians now aren't that healer. You need to need to practice those ancient arts on ourselves and each other compassion.
Dr. Laura Fortner 37:31
Yeah. So true.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 37:32
Wow. Well, Dr. Fortner, and it's been a pleasure chatting to you, if you don't mind, sharing with the audience, basically, how to reach you again, I will have this in the show notes. But it's also good for them to hear.
Dr. Laura Fortner 37:43
Yeah, yeah. So you can reach me at my website, themedmouthcoach.com. And on the site, there's a place that you can join our Facebook community and movement, if you want to be a part of medical malpractice, and you care about that. And otherwise, you can also go and get my guide to the common myths on medical malpractice and sort of debunking them. So something to think about it, I think it's a must document for every physician.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 38:11
100%, I totally agree, well listeners to physician listeners and non physician listeners, you know, it's good for everyone to get a taste of what happens behind closed doors, your physicians, your healers they're human, we really do care, but some things are outside our control, and we require gray and to anyone who has experienced, you know, a negative outcome. We are sorry that it's happened. You know, you know, I'm sure, doctor, I have a patient and a physician have experienced negative outcome.
Dr. Laura Fortner 38:38
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 38:38
Right? It happens. And we're not downplaying it, we are not downplaying you're hurt frustrations or your loss, but definitely.
Dr. Laura Fortner 38:45
No, and I do think, I do think there is some negligence sometimes.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 38:49
Dr. Laura Fortner 38:50
I'm not saying there's not, I'm what I'm saying is there needs to be a better vetting system of what really needs to be addressed.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 38:58
Dr. Laura Fortner 38:59
And to give to patients versus what is probably no negligence, you know, and there's ways that we can do that better for sure.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 39:08
Oh 100%, I've seen a I've seen that at all, like both sides. So yes, there there is negligence, and then there's also gray and there's also they did their absolute best. Everyone did their best.
Dr. Laura Fortner 39:20
Yes, yeah, yeah.
Dr. Tomi Mitchell 39:22
Well, thank you so much, Doc. Thank you listeners for spending this time with us. If you have anyone in your family and friends who would benefit from this podcast, feel free to have them download, for follow, leave a great review so that other people can be blessed from the stories shared. Till next time, this is your host, Dr. Tomi Mitchell from the Mental Health and Wellness Show. Bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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