This week, I had another one of those conversations where I can no longer remain silent. A friend began to criticize a doctor, selling me the popular line that all his doctor cares about is money. I never used to feel a need to speak up for my colleagues, but I do now. With all the challenges and obstacles we face in healthcare, somebody needs to speak up for us -- so why not me!
I just read a terrific article addressing the epidemic (my term) of physician burnout and our need of resiliency training. As I read, I wondered, How many professions out there talk about needing to train in resiliency? Next time you see a doctor, try not to think about this: "One-third to one-half of physicians meet burnout criteria, leading to very real suffering among physicians and their families." That is a huge number of caregivers helping others while running on empty, discouraged and unfulfilled. To me, this is not only an epidemic -- it reflects a crisis in our profession that's affecting society as a whole.
Our task as physicians is extremely difficult; sometimes it seems
impossible. We must be caring, compassionate, efficient, thorough, patient, engaging, knowledgeable, up-to-date, skillful, and able to diagnose, encourage, empower, inspire, treat, keep good records, and more ... all in half the time the typical sitcom lasts. It's tiring just thinking about what we're expected to do each day, especially when you consider other factors that affect what we do, such as patient denial, fear, anger, distrust, substance abuse, and personality disorders. In some ways, it's surprising that the rate of burnout isn't even higher!
The authors speak of a resiliency triad that helps strengthen those in the caring fields. This triad involves developing greater insight and a commitment to one's values and to a healthy lifestyle (sleep, nutrition, activity level, among others). I agree that these are all essential and sometimes lacking among my peers but, very often, it's because of the challenges built into our personalities, our profession, and the culture in which we practice. In the culture of medicine, rest is equated with laziness and a commitment to balance is often looked down upon by the overachieving, perfectionist personality that prevails.
The gifts we bring to our profession often become our greatest liability.
Yet, I agree that there is much we can do to help ourselves and care for people with compassion. Although at times what we must do seems impossible, we really can do it, but we must also have the courage to change ourselves and our environment when needed.
The privilege to care for
others must be balanced with our need to care for ourselves and our
families. I have also found that, as I align my practice
of medicine with my values and who I am, I have much more joy, I am
much more effective, and those I care for leave encouraged, inspired,
and even empowered to live according to their own. This return to
congruence has had more impact on my satisfaction and joy as a
doctor than anything else I've done. It's helped me grow as an
individual, and it's made me more compassionate.
Aligning what we do and
how we help others with our values means we have the courage to be
ourselves: broken, human, and vulnerable. This inner change impacts
not only ourselves but our staff and our patients. This commitment to stop pretending we're perfect, this paradigm shift to be fully ourselves while caring for others
begins to transform the culture in which we practice.
I believe questions like, Who am I? and Why am I here? have the power to transform our day-to-day lives. In every profession, we must find that spark that helps us do what we must do with joy. Finding our purpose and living it out -- becoming who we were created to be -- is a source of contentment that also increases our effectiveness. It's a win-win!
So what can we start doing to achieve that today? And tomorrow. And the next day....
I invite you to have the courage to be yourself.
Learn more about my journey to greater wholeness in my book, Walking with Jesus in Healthcare.
Quote from Physician Resilience and Burnout: Can You Make the Switch? Family Practice Management, Jan-Feb 2013.
- ▼ 2013 (9)
- ► 2012 (44)