Solutions

For Physicians:

The first step to recovering from burnout is to recognize and acknowledge that you are suffering from this problem. This can be a real challenge as physicians tend to try and “tough it out” and are notoriously poor at self-care, particularly in the realm of their own mental health. Perfectionist tendencies that helped us achieve career success also place us at risk as we frequently loathe seeking the help that we need to get through burnout. Although we are often embarrassed or afraid to ask for it, help is out there. You are not alone!

Recognizing Burnout

Feelings of depletion, exhaustion, irritability or depression may indicate that you are experiencing symptoms of burnout. A physician who begins to treat patients like they are just another case, demonstrates less empathy for patients, or feels a low sense of accomplishment from work may also be manifesting symptoms of burnout.

Below, you will find just some of the potential solutions for burnout. Each physician will need to pick and choose from this list what works for him or her and begin taking small steps of action immediately.

Acknowledgment and Commitment

One of the primary ways, physicians and other medical professionals are ever going to recover from burnout is through an acknowledgment there is a problem and a commitment to making changes.   This is not going to be easy and it does require a requisite amount of energy and effort to resolve to change. Each physician will need to pick and choose what works for him or her and begin taking small steps of action.

Elicit support from family and friends

Physicians can be solitary and are steeped in a culture that thrives on the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  Recovery from burnout requires physicians to break through this barrier and seek support from family and friends. Family and friends can often see the toll that burnout is taking on a physician better than he or she can.  Family and friends also suffer secondary effects from a physician’s burnout and in my experience they are eager to help a physician achieve meaningful recovery.

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Utilize counseling and/or coaching

Physicians frequently are the least likely to seek care for themselves and often make the worst patients, but this is something we have to overcome.  There are wonderful resources, including therapists, professional counselors, and physician life coaches, who specialize in treating physicians with burnout. We partner with several here at Heal Thyself MD. Contact us to get more information.

Seek peer support and mentoring

Talking with peers and being humble enough to begin working with a mentor or coach are key ingredients to treating burnout.  It is vital to know that you are not alone and to talk to others who have been on this journey.  Thanks to the power of modern technology, we have begun to set up burnout prevention and treatment groups, where physicians and those who support them, including spouses, can come together from across the country and even the world to share their experiences, frustrations, and gain insight about possible pathways to recovery. Contact us for more information.

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Create and reestablish your current and lifelong financial plan

Many physicians suffer from the burden of medical school debt. Frequently physicians in maximum burnout have not formulated a comprehensive plan for retirement, paying off debt, or saving for their children’s education.  They are on a treadmill just trying to survive.  In order to have a sense of stability while addressing burnout, it is imperative for a physician to begin to take small steps to work through financial challenges. Some may be comfortable doing this on their own and others may choose to work with a financial adviser.  Either way, it needs to happen. In fact, we partner with a physician who retired early and now advises physicians how they can become debt free and start organizing their finances to plan for retirement. Please contact us for more information.

Learn to Say “No” in order to personally thrive

If you are a physician reading this website, chances are, you always say “yes” to that extra consult or extra call.  Physicians tend to be others-focused and always try to accommodate requests.  They tend to always put their patients first and their own well-being frequently suffers as a consequence. This inability to set boundaries may be one of the reasons you have wound up on this website. Not every problem is your responsibility.  This is one of the hardest things for physicians to learn, as our training indoctrinates us to take on every request.  If you want to say “yes” to yourself and your quality of life, learning to say “no” – gently but with conviction – is part of that process.

Create Boundaries for Your Schedule

Many physicians are perpetually running behind schedule, working through lunch and staying late after clinic hours because of the volume of patients they see. If a physician looks at his or her schedule and feels completely overwhelmed when they arrive at work in the morning, it is a clear sign that things need to change.  We can help you work with you on implementing the necessary changes to take back control of your life and your career.

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Develop strategies for the effective use of your electronic medical record system

Electronic medical records are designed to improve patient care and decrease physician workload.  But often, despite the best intentions, the opposite is true.  Learning to cope with electronic health records system at your institution is a pivotal aspect in your quality of life.  Attending training on the system is often not enough.

Ask for help.  Be proactive with your staff team and organization regarding setting up and customizing the system.  To the extent filling out the records does not require an MD, see if that work can be delegated to a medical assistant or scribe.

Release stress by returning to activities you love (fishing, hiking, travel, yoga)

Physicians often leave behind many activities that they once loved in order to meet the demands of training and practicing.  What replenishes you?  Are you doing less of it?  Make a commitment to yourself to reintroduce those activities back into your life.  It is imperative to have a life outside of medicine.

 

Journaling and mindfulness

Developing a practice of journaling and meditation, on your own or as part of counseling or coaching, can be invaluable and reveal things you were never aware of.  This can also help lay the path for recovery and reinforce the changes you are making.  Mindfulness is one of the few interventions that has been shown effective in studies of physician burnout.