What is the most detrimental factor to carrying out physician duties? Lack of education? Studying outside the USA? Step scores? Surprise; it’s none of these. Two words: Burn out. It’s the downward spiral of all healthcare professionals. Healthcare workers whose motivation and moral is at an all time low. How do we tackle this issue? They are no longer able to help patients from mental and physical fatigue. How do I, a medical student, who has encountered the feeling of burnout, persevere? I am going to provide some personal tactics for future professionals and current , that some may like to employ.
My personal biggest enemy is my psyche. “ I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I am worthless”. Thoughts of burnout also coincide with depression. I know it may feel ironic, but healthcare providers need to be taken care of too. Make an appointment with a physician. If you are busy, ask about telehealth. Most facilities allow you to talk via video or simply a phone call. Be honest. Tell them exactly how you feel. More than likely you may have signs of depression. That’s Ok. Putting in the effort of calling and sharing details is a huge step to overcome burnout. If you are prescribed an antidepressant, that is OK and common. Medications are not always a life sentence. You may only need it for a longer period of time. But they can help.
I can not stress enough how good exercise is. On my low days I have a fight with my brain to get up and go for a run or to the gym. But immediately after I have a lift in mood. That is due to the body’s natural endorphins that help with sensing a feeling of well-being. People often ask me “ how do you motivate yourself to get up and go?” I find that when I do not think about exercise prior to, I am more likely to go through with it. If I start thinking about it, I start to think about getting dressed, driving, the actual time spent at the gym, the shower needed after, etc., and I am more likely to not go. So I simply do not think about it. I just go. It’s a skill I developed since I began working out at 12. Although it sounds trivial, exercise is so important in eliminating burnout.
Family. Can’t live with them and can’t live without them. Full disclosure: I know everyone has different family dynamics. My relationship with my immediate family is relatively good. You see I am of Middle Eastern background where family is a top priority in our culture. I find myself feeling a lot better when I visit my family. My nephew is my world and one hug makes all my troubles go away. Even if you do not feel close to your family, you find out quickly that no one is quite as supportive of them. If the going gets tough they are always there to help lift you back on your feet.
Last on my list is a simple concept. Hobbies. Listen, I get it. Helping people is your life. You simply do not feel as though you have time for hobbies. But news flash, you can not help others if you yourself are not well. An analogy I have used plenty of times ( especially with my stubborn philanthropist husband) is that when the air mask on the airplane drops at your seat, you are told to put your mask on before helping others. Why? Well you are not much help to the needy when you are passed out from lack of oxygen. So please I beg you. Indulge once in a while. It is not wrong. Listen to music, go to a concert, pick up an old instrument, play basketball with your friends, do anything.
We tend feel guilty tending to ourselves. I blame American culture to be honest. America is a very work centered culture. Being privileged I was able to experience other cultures. In the middle east I got a look at how different things can be. In Jordan and Palestine, emphasis is put on leisure. Although these countries are not as rich as the US, there is a difference in citizens mood. People just seem happier overseas. But neither is ideal. The US nor the middle east. You need a balance of both. Work and leisure. Us healthcare students/professionals must find that balance in our own lives to prosper. We can try our best to eliminate burnout and work for the great good.