5 Ways for Doctors to Deal with Burnout - Part 2
To read part one in this series, click here.
Doctors: Does it sometimes feel like there aren’t enough hours in the week to accomplish everything your job requires? If so, you’re not alone: Doctor burnout is all too real, and it’s increasingly being called out as a serious issue in the healthcare industry.
Many healthcare organizations and thought leaders are well aware of the problem of doctor burnout and actively working on potential solutions. In the meantime, here are five steps physicians themselves can take to help stave off feelings of burnout and exhaustion and help ensure a happier, healthier and more productive work/life balance.
5 Ways to Deal with Doctor Burnout Part 2
3. Choose Your Battles.
While you may be able to negotiate an altered schedule or take a temporary leave of absence from your duties, there are certain stress-inducing aspects of the medical professional that aren’t going away any time soon.
“There are contributors to burnout that we can't modify,” Dr. Allison Ludwig of New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine told Whitman.
“For instance, a doctor might have to tell one patient they have cancer, then step into the next room to see another patient and quickly don a cheery face,” Whitman writes. “That's never going to go away in medicine,” adds Dr. Ludwig.
There’s no easy solution here, but if you find this aspect of your career to be particularly burdensome, there may be a need to reprioritize your other duties to accommodate it. Again, talk to your employers — chances are good that they’ll understand your situation and realize the importance of helping you cope with it.
“I believe that that feeling of helplessness is really at the root of burnout,” Dr. Mark Keroack, CEO of Massachusetts’ Baystate Health, told Whitman. Dr. Keroack goes on to discuss his organization’s “physician leadership academy,” which “basically empowers doctors to be part of shaping the way care is delivered.
“The least burnt-out physicians are the ones who are most involved in making the changes happen,” he emphasizes.
4. Learn How to Say “No.”
Like most of these methods for dealing with doctor burnout, saying “no” to requests can be difficult — but it can also provide the essential level of comfort needed to truly give yourself a sense of relief.
“Saying ‘no’ to requests can sometimes leave physicians feeling like they’re coming up short,” says AMN Healthcare’s Sean Ebner. “But saying ‘no’ is a strategy that can have a very profound impact for you because it frees up time in your busy schedule, allowing you to reallocate it to activities that give you greater work-life balance.”
“My new motto is, ‘Say yes to health,’ which means I say no a lot more than I used to,” adds Dr. Janet Gourley, who attributes clinical care breaks to helping her stay one step ahead in her fight against burnout.
5. Explore the Catharsis of Self-Expression.
Whitman talks about a new movement among physicians to tap into “the power of art — especially words” as a basis “to shore up doctors' spirits.”
Specifically, an online magazine called Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine focuses on “the experience of medicine as told by the people experiencing it,” the magazine’s founder, Dr. Paul Gross, told Whitman.
The catharsis offered by artistic expression is a time-honored human phenomenon, even among those who may not be very comfortable with self-expression. But the benefits of contributing to artistic outlets like Pulse aren’t limited to such personal revelations, powerful though those may be.
“Policymakers read stories like this,” Dr. Gross told Whitman. It makes people who are making decisions about legislation and policy to think … 'Oh, we've got a problem.'”
“Pulse stories with policy implications have been reprinted by established mainstream outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, as well as the popular medical site KevinMD,” Whitman adds.
“We look for stories that have systemic implications,” says Dr. Gross. “It's not just fixing individuals.”
If you’re feeling burned out, the best solution may be exploring new career opportunities. Kendall & Davis specializes in matching skilled physicians with the great opportunities nationwide. If you’re interested in learning more, we invite you to contact a Kendall & Davis recruitment professional today for more information.