Spouse’s Corner

Hello, I’m Rachel Murphy, Tom’s wife.  I know firsthand the toll that burnout can take not just on physicians, but on their partners and families as well.  It was difficult to see my dedicated husband depleted by burnout to the point where he had nothing left for his family.  Burnout not only took over his life, it took over mine as well.  Though most of this website is dedicated to helping physicians overcome burnout, it is equally important that partners and families help themselves as well.

Here are a few ideas, drawn from my own experiences and those of other partners of burned-out physicians:

1. Take care of yourself.  This may seem paradoxical for a website focused on helping your burned-out partner.  But the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your partner is to not allow his or her burnout to become your own.

2.  Find your own support.  Just as your partner will benefit from finding other physicians with whom he or she can talk about burnout, you will benefit from confiding in caring friends, other physician spouses, or even counselors to work out your own feelings and struggles with your partner’s burnout.

3.  Gently encourage your partner to find help.  You may be the first to recognize the signs of burnout in your partner and the best one to help him or her see the effects burnout is having on your family.  A gentle but firm request that he or she find help could go a long way.

4.  Burnout is not a “get out of jail free” card. Yes, your partner is suffering.  But they are still responsible for their own behavior.  You have every right to set boundaries and insist your partner respect them.

5.  Be open to the adventure of recovery.  When recovering from burnout, your partner may decide that he or she no longer wants to practice medicine, or, at least, not in the way he or she was practicing before.  It may be difficult to adjust to the idea that you are no longer a doctor’s spouse, with all that goes with it.  Your partner’s decisions also may change your family’s financial situation or require you to reevaluate your own career.  This can be incredibly scary but it can also be the most incredible opportunity either of you will ever have to truly evaluate what matters and live the life you want to live.  Be as open as you can to the adventure.

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