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Jessica is passionate about burnout, works with dentists and dental teams—both one-on-one and in groups—to be able to understand how burnout presents not just on a day-to-day basis but throughout the year. Jessica evolved from a young and eager doctor to the “Alchemist Dentist” creating ripples in the industry today.

Dr. Jessica Metcalfe – The Burnout Expert




  • The last time Dr. Glenn Vo had a chance to talk to Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, she was surrounded by people after winning the Dentistry’s Got Talent competition. Naturally, then, many of you might recognize her as a dental celebrity.
  • Jessica is passionate about burnout, something every dental professional has felt at some point in their career. While most (if not all) people will feel burnout at some point in their careers, the dental profession can cause burnout to a severe degree.
  • As a fellow dentist, Jessica knows the struggles that come with presenting as if you have it all together: dentists are meant to be very A-type, having gone through dental school, and “keep up the Joneses.” Subsequently, they end up branching out into these “islands” where they feel isolated without much of a support system.
  • That’s why Jessica works with dentists and dental teams—both one-on-one and in groups—to be able to understand how burnout presents not just on a day-to-day basis but throughout the year. When you start to think differently and create awareness in your team members, your staff will maintain high morale as they eagerly hop out of bed to come in even on the coldest mornings.
  • Every story has a beginning. And Jessica—like every guest on the Nifty Thrifty podcast—has a winding story that has brought her to where she is today… Here’s how Jessica evolved from a young and eager doctor to the “Alchemist Dentist” creating ripples in the industry today:
    • Jessica knew she wanted to be a dentist since she was 14. Her aunt was a dentist as well, making it super easy for her to integrate into her office, become front desk staff, and understand the back-end of dentistry.
    • While she had put horse blinders on since she was 14, tragedy hit Jessica from every angle.
    • First; her sister passed away due to suicide. Next, her mother suffered a traumatic brain injury and was left reeling in the depths of psychosis—she no longer recognized Jessica.
    • To add to it all, Jessica was diagnosed with a learning disability—specifically in reading comprehension. This was all at 20 years old.
    • At that point in time, Jessica thought dentistry was no longer on the table. She struggled with school, and, while she got the support that she needed, she never got true help for herself until she realized she was living an unsustainable lifestyle.
    • Thus, Jessica got her act together and began applying to dental schools, but she only got into one school: Boston University—and she was waitlisted. A month before classes started, however, she was pulled from the waitlist and admitted to the university.
    • While in school, Jessica was super involved in organized dentistry. It was very natural for her career to lead into coaching, as she had kind of been doing it all along.
    • Once she graduated, Jessica returned to Toronto where she completed a hospital residency program and fell in love with treating medically-compromised patients.
    • From there, Jessica applied to oral surgery for two years in a row to no avail. Suddenly, she found an email in her inbox from the neighboring hospital—a cancer center—reading through tears to see an offer from them for a full-time position.
    • Jessica migrated over to the cancer center, becoming their education director, and she noticed a theme not only within her own community but in organized dentistry as a whole: she found there was an unspoken truth that no one is doing well.
    • At that time, Jessica was lecturing on treating cancer patients. Her forte is improving the quality of life of those who are undergoing any type of post-cancer therapy. Her patients had beaten cancer and effectively healed, but they were still dealing with the many side effects that came with treatment.
    • That was when Jessica hit her third burnout, getting swept up in that underlying tone of no one doing “well,” being diagnosed with depression and a generalized anxiety disorder. She was still very functional—going to work, coming home, completing the daily rituals—but she was basically a blob: she didn’t find joy in anything she was doing. She put on happiness for her patients—and they did bring her some form of happiness—but she was crispy, burnt out on the inside “like you wouldn’t believe.”
    • Being in the research center, it was natural for Jessica to have the resources to dive into the psychology of why dentists experience what they do throughout their entire careers.
    • A few years later, after working up some courage, Jessica felt ready to tell her story. Soon, she was messaged by fellow dental professionals who thought they were alone.
    • Many of them shared the same sentiment of fearing that they were wishing their years away. They felt they were grinding away from day to day, thinking that things would be easier once they got to a certain point—but they never arrived at that point.
    • Ever since leaving an impact like that, Jessica has become committed to empowering dentists to work through their burnout so they can get back to enjoying a profession they worked so hard to get to.
  • Glenn was touched to hear Jessica’s story… On one hand, he feels that being a dentist is amazing because it means he can change and improve the lives of his patients on a daily basis. On the other hand, Glenn knows that dentistry can eat you alive if you don’t take care of yourself—and the right balance is hard to find.
  • Jessica thinks perfectionist ways can get us stuck, leading to burnout, tossing us into a rat race where we seldom take a break and exhibit what she refers to as “Safety Behaviors.” It breaks her heart that we get stuck in a cyclical life where we either don’t notice the state of things or don’t think we can get unstuck.
  • Jessica doesn’t believe anxiety and burnout will come out of nowhere. She believes that it works like a Tupperware container, with small stressors slowly accumulating until the point that your “jar” is too full.
  • Learn about:
    • What does Glenn have to say about people who tell you you’re not “strong enough”?
    • What was the first symptom of burnout that Jessica felt? What was she doing, and what did it make her feel from a mental, emotional, and physical standpoint?
    • Why, exactly, does Jessica have a bone to pick with perfectionism?
    • What stories does Jessica have to share with the listeners?
      • Why does Glenn want you to know you have permission to reach out to her and seek help after you listen to the stories she has to tell?
    • What questions, specifically, does Jessica go through with each of her clients?
    • How can negative self-talk undo an otherwise successful day, causing a domino effect and downward spiral? How can jotting down those moments that “go wrong” help you to shut up your inner critic and build self-compassion?
    • Why does Jessica think our current routines leave us with little time to reflect on our thoughts, emotions, etc. and what does she think is wrong with that?
    • How does it feel to Jessica when she witnesses dental teams overcome their negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, etc.?
    • If you’re feeling burnt out, does that mean you need to leave dentistry?
      • Hint: You don’t need to open up an ice cream shop just yet…
    • How does Jessica compare a Tupperware container to anxiety and burnout?
    • And more!
  • Glenn and Jessica want you to know it’s okay to get help, and we’re here for you. If you’re suffering from burnout, reach out to Jessica at [email protected]