Burn out! The very mention of the word conjures up a mid-life crisis with broken relationships, declining work performance, and substance abuse. Not to mention the pot belly that accompanies those of us in that blessed 5th decade of life. Doctors and other health care providers are not immune from this most dreaded disease; in fact, we may be more susceptible because we either deny its existence or simply don’t have the time to address the cause. American Medical Association (AMA) surveys confirm the negative outlook of doctors now more than ever before. Read and weep about this week’s blog from Dr. Nieder on doctor burn-out and how to stop it! I appreciate her honesty and transparency regarding strategies that she has found to be successful.
I have my own list of cures for medical burnout, that I hope you will find enjoyable. And by the way, Physician, Heal Thyself originates from Luke 4:23….maybe some evening reading.
Cures for medical burnout:
1. Develop hobbies and enjoy them. In addition to medicine, I love agriculture and a great outlet for me is to pet my daughter’s show horse. Yea, it’s simple but effective.
2. Network with other experts in your field. I am not an expert in environmental control of mold, but I do know who is.
4. Keep yourself fit & trim. Of course exercise your body, but keep your mind active as well. Medical journals are replete with “The Best 10 articles of the Year”. Read them to learn, but you’re also stretching your mind and might even change the way you practice. Time passes faster the older you get. Omalizumab is a treatment for asthma that is now 10 years old. Back when I was a resident corticosteroids were the only option for treating severe asthma. Of course, I had to walk through 3 feet of snow to get to school…..
5. However you choose to combat medical burnout, be open to the advice and opinion of others. My colleagues have been down this road before and I’m sure I can learn something from them. Before my friends and family can help, I have to be willing to open up and talk. Some role reversal (now I’m the patient) is a good thing.
6. Finally, without friends & family, any success won’t be shared by those who really matter. Take heart—help is there if we only ask!
Now on to Dr. Nieder….
How social media recharged this physician
In late fall of 2011, I was tired of medicine. While seeing patients was still enjoyable, I felt underappreciated in my employment and frustrated by the endless BS that I dealt with — new laws undermining the trust my patients place in me, increasing requirements from insurance companies for ordering tests or medications, more forms to sign, less time with patients, a cumbersome EHR to learn, more non-CME education requirements from the system I belonged to … the list grew endless. Most of it boiled down to less control over my professional life and less time to spend with the people I enjoyed-family, friends and patients.The following February, I began writing a blog on my professional frustrations as well as the occasional reward. Shortly after that I discovered Twitter — first as a “lurker” listening in the background, then as an active participant. I met so many interesting people — physicians, e-patients, social media gurus, pharmacists, nurses, other healthcare providers, patient family members, the list is endless. Through Twitter my office knew early on about the multi-state fungal meningitis caused by tainted steroid vials, the Newtown shootings (unfortunately) and the Open Notes study. If Mayo and Cleveland Clinics were using social media to reach and teach their patients, it was likely that social media was not just a passing fad. Meanwhile my fascination with the phenomenon grew.I began a master’s level course on social media that is mind-blowing (and free) developed by +Bertalan Meskó, an MD-PhD from Hungary who is a medical futurist.
In October of 2012 I attended Mayo Clinic’s Social Media in Medicine Summit and met a few hundred people interested in how social media is changing medicine.
In the process I found new ways to engage myself and my patients — using QR codes, putting up a white board in the exam rooms, recommending apps.
Patients now get a business card with the access site to a patient portal, my Twitter handle and my blog site. They can contact me 24/7, understanding that I’ll answer with the same availability as my email.
Last year’s experience served to recharge my professional gusto. Patients are more interesting, I deal with the non-stop frustrations with more aplomb and less emotional exhaustion.I look forward to seeing my new friends on the #hcsm tweetchat on Sunday night. Suddenly the future of medicine looks a lot less lonely and a lot more interesting.
Kathy Nieder is a family physician who blogs at Family Practice 2.0.