Being a medical professional is a very high stress job. Every day, you hold the lives of your patients in your hands, making decisions that could affect their quality of life, delivering sometimes horrific news, and working long hours to help as many people as you can in the course of your day. Often, your hard work and great care go unnoticed as you go home to rest up for another day at the office, only to have to rush back out to handle the latest emergency with a patient.
For many physicians, this endless cycle is causing a serious stress, depression, and burnout. Several recent studies by Medscape, the Mayo Clinic, and others have proven time and again that physician burnout is a fast-growing problem and that more and more doctors are cutting their hours or going as far as leaving the profession altogether because of their struggles with depression and burning out.
In a job where you may regularly have to face death, and where people often pin the responsibility on you for things that are far out of your control, it’s only natural to feel exhausted at the end of the day. It can be difficult to leave those tough cases at the office and completely unwind when you go home at the end of a shift. Over time, this takes a serious toll on your own psyche and that of your family.
One of the most important factors in combating against burnout is looking out for your own physical well-being. Missed meals, lost sleep, and lack of exercise will add up and create physical effects that make it impossible for a physician to truly feel well.
Emotional well-being is also crucial. While it can be an intimidating thing to admit that your emotional and mental health state is not where it should be, recognizing signs of depression or anxiety and seeking treatment is a key component in fighting against burnout.
Balance your life as much as you can, between work and the office. When possible, make sure that your time off is spent doing things that you love or that are necessary to your life outside the office. Spending time with your family and friends will help your relationships outside of work to remain healthy and give you something to look forward to at the end of a long day.
Delegate menial tasks wherever you can. If you can clear your plate of some of the less-enjoyable aspects of your position and spend more work time doing the things that you find satisfying, you’ll experience less burnout.
Speak up and ask for help if you need it. It can be easy to get caught up in the mentality that you are the only one who can do your job. Identify colleagues who can cover for you, and allow yourself to take breaks or reduce your hours to help you get past a phase of burnout.
Being a physician can be one of the most rewarding careers on the planet, if you work to create an atmosphere that allows you to enjoy the benefits of the job. Self-awareness will allow you to recognize burnout as it starts to rear its ugly head and help you to fight against it before it takes over.