Burnout in Medicine and Our Newest Project to Help With It!

Session 300

This week, we’re joined by Allison who has previously shared her story of burnout. We discuss burnout as well as the birth of MedDiaries – our newest project to help with this prevalent issue..

We’re celebrating our 300th episode and it’s been our tradition to state the Hippocratic Oath every 50 episodes.

“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks.

But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.

May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”

[04:50] The Prevalence of Burnout in the Physician Community

Allison talks about there are bad days as much as there are good days, which is highly prevalent in the physician community. In fact, 42% of physicians in the 2018 Medscape Report are burned out.

Based on personal experience, Allison is passionate when it comes to this topic. She also works in the field of Neurology which ranks second on the list of fields that are most likely to experience burnout, second to Critical Care.

More and more people are now researching burnout due to its prevalence in the community of physicians, residents, and medical students.

Allison describes how burnout has affected her emotional wellbeing, feelings of self-worth, and even the ability to care for herself.

[06:25]  Burnout as a Sign of Weakness

In the onset of burnout, you begin to feel detached, dissociated, resigned, and separated in some way from the job you were trained to do. And even though it’s a high percentage of physicians having burnout, it’s not something you experience with other people. You experience it by yourself.

In medicine, what has been taught to us is that if you’re strong enough to do it then great; but if you can’t handle it, then you shouldn’t do it. So if you’re struggling with emotional difficulty or feeling exhausted, or if you’re experiencing the human side of how difficult it is to be a physician and you talk about it or complain about it, or let it affect your work, then that’s seen as a weakness and that it’s not acceptable in medicine.

This is a subconscious thing, but at the same time, it’s something directly taught in a lot of places. You would then have to bury that way deep down inside of you, not in the hospital or in the clinic, but someplace else. If you can’t handle it, then there’s got to be something wrong with you. This is all a bunch of hullabaloo, but this is what we’re taught, unfortunately.

But it’s not we, the people practicing medicine, who are at fault here as we are all human beings. The problem is we’re surrounded by unbelievable pressures and so many different obligations, and other things that take away from the ability for us to practice medicine. For instance, these are things like clicking boxes and EMRs, filling out authorizations – things not about practicing medicine but fulfilling guidelines and nothing to do with directly looking after a patient.

[09:10] Premeds Experience Burnout Too!

Premeds experience the same things as well, trying to live up to the standard they think they need to live up to – being a 4.0 student, 520 on the MCAT, and getting all the extracurricular activities in – shadowing and clinical experience. You try to get into the best medical schools and best residencies and be the best doctor.

We can’t fix the systemic issues and reason we’re discussing it now so as you’re going through this process, you get into a position of power where you can make some of these differences. It may be not on a national scale, but on a local scale, specifically for your hospital.

That being said, we can change the discussion around burnout. This impetus behind our new project.

[10:20] Are You One of Us?

Are you a physician and feeling down or burned out? Have you had a terrible day and just need to vent and get something off your chest?

Are you a resident working 80+ hours a week in a hospital and watching your patients suffer without any dedicated space or time to talk about it?

Are you a medical student feeling the toll of studying all night after working in a hospital all day and wondering if life will look any better when you’re an MD or a DO?

Are you a premed student with a dream of becoming a physician but you’re feeling discouraged by a bad grade or rejection letter, and wondering if you’ll ever get there?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were an anonymous safe place where you could speak your mind and have your voice heard?

In this time of extraordinary demands on physicians with 42% of physicians feeling burned out in the latest 2018 Medscape Report, we need a place to be heard.

All over the United States, medical centers and medical schools are trying to find ways to help physicians with burnout. Wellness groups and conferences and employee assistance programs have formed. Some residency programs have created programs to help their residents process their grief and other emotions that arise in medical training. There are islands of awareness popping up to try heal and support our exhausted physician workforce and help prevent them from self-destructing and from leaving medicine altogether.

[11:40] We All Need Support: Join the Movement!

But we cannot do this alone in silos. we need support in a way that we feel connected to all those around us, those who are feeling the way we do but never discuss it openly for fear of looking weak.

As attending physicians we are often told to meditate, exercise, and do whatever we can to “fix” our burnout. But we argue that we are not the problem. The systems around us create untenable demand that inevitably leads to burnout. EMRs and endless boxes to check, notes to write, prior authorizations, loss of autonomy, fear of litigation, and lots of reimbursement for doing the incredibly hard work this profession demands everyday.

As residents and medical students, we are told to bury our feelings deep down and just get the work done. Yet, we lose a part of ourselves when we don’t acknowledge the depths, the fear, the enormous responsibility of telling a family member that their loved one is gone no matter how hard we try to save them.

While we don’t know the fix for this, one thing’s for sure: talking about it helps.

Welcome to MedDiaries…

When you’re having a down moment, call 1-833-MYDIARY and leave an anonymous voicemail.

Speak your mind. Drop your guard. Say whatever needs to be said. You will be heard by others feeling the weight of burnout too.

This is a place to be heard. Join the movement!

[13:19] MedDiaries as Your Trusted Resource

All over the country, people recognize there’s a problem with burnout. Physicians and people all through every stage of training need a place to talk, and people to talk with about how hard this whole process is. The journey never stops right until you die.

MedDiaries is creating a space where people at every stage of this journey – premed, medical student, resident, physician, or attending physician – can go anonymously and talk about what’s going on.

We’re not going to “fix” it but talking about it is a starting point. And this is what’s really missing across the board.

Under the MedDiaries umbrella, we’re going to have four podcasts:

  • The Premed Diaries
  • Med Student Diaries
  • Resident Diaries
  • Physician Diaries

And Allison is hosting the shows!

So, whether you’re happy because you saved somebody for the first time. Or you’re struggling because your boss yelled at you. Call 1-833-MYDIARY. You will be allotted 30 minutes to leave a voicemail.

While it’s anonymous, you’re also welcome to say something about yourself. But we want to keep you protected as well as who you’re talking about protected.

Tell us what you’re feeling. There’s no right or wrong. Treat us as a diary.

There is healing in speaking what’s in your mind and getting it out of your mind and out into the world.

We’re targeting releasing two episodes per week where we get your voicemail. We listen to it, play it, and Allison gives her comments. Then we’re going to ask the audience to call in and leave feedback.

Again, we’re not trying to fix anything. But we’re all in this together. When we start sharing our struggles and successes, you’d be surprised at the impact this can make!

Links:

Medscape National Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2018

Call 1-833-MYDIARY

Stay informed of the MedDiaries launch. Get notified!

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