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Ways to Reduce and Prevent Physician Burnout

Our nation’s physcians face many different stressors and challenges that come along with the job. It’s imperitive that you, as a physician, keep yourself from burning out, because once you do, your work suffers, and ultimately, so do the patients that you have sworn to treat and protect. The Happy MD refers to “burnout” as an overdrawn bank account, which is probably the best way to put it; you’re taking away from physical, mental, and emotional accounts that are already empty. Work takes a toll on everyone’s reserves, but when your reach the point where you’re trying to convince yourself that feeling exhausted and cynical towards your job is something all doctors feel all the time, then consider that your big red flag. After that, you’ll reach the point where you feel like you’re barely hanging on, and that the tether that holds you to the job you’re dreading going to every morning is about to snap and send you wheeling through a black hole, and that’s when you’ve gone too far; you’ve reached the burnout zone. At this point, you don’t care as much as you’d like to, or should, and you’re probably far more bitter than you thought possible. Luckily, there are “cures” — or more like coping mechanisms — for this dreaded burnout, but note that these should be applied to your life consistantly, even if you’re not feeling those symptoms.

Cure #1: Be aware. It might take some practice, but once you realize that the stressors you’re experienceing are about to create negative emotions about your job, grab ahold of them, and practice techniques that can help you protect yourself and work through those emotions on the spot. Think of this as a defense — a shield.

Cure #2: Self care. The reason you get burnt out is because your mental, physical, and emotional accounts are empty, and you’re trying to use more of something that needs a rest. There are a lot of things that can fall under this category, and it all really just depends on what you feel needs to be cared for the most in that moment. Do you need more sleep? Get it. Do you need a night to yourself, or with a loved one? Do it. Don’t be afraid to give your body, mind, and soul what it wants. Remember that boundaries are part of keeping yourself sane.

Cure #3: Change. If you find yourself unable to help yourself with Cures 1 or 2, then remove yourself from the stressor. Reduce your hours, change the way you work, find a different position or job using the same skills, but with less stress.

There is absolutely no problem with getting help for burnout, especially in the medical field, where someone’s quality of life could depend on you and your decisions. Your team will understand, because they can’t afford a burn out doctor, either. Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others. 

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