Have the doctors changed their behavior? More than half do and exhibit positive behavioral changes, she says, explaining that disrespectful behavior can cause stress in others, which is a risk factor for burnout.
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Explore This IssueJune 2017
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Help Yourself, Help Others
Although many medical practices or healthcare facilities lack programs to help physicians cope with burnout, doctors can still take action to help themselves or their peers who may be experiencing burnout.
“You have to wake up to the fact that your medical education programmed you to be a superhero workaholic lone ranger perfectionist with two prime directives—the patient comes first, and never show weakness,” says Dike Drummond, MD, founder of The Happy MD. “This sets doctors up to burn out sooner or later. It is only when you say to yourself, ‘This is crazy. I’m not going to take it anymore’ and build a strategy for balance and a more fulfilling practice that you will gradually find a way forward.”
The next step is key to your recovery. Create a written description for your ideal practice, which will give you a target for a better practice and better life, he says. What would it look like? How would it work? This is a question most doctors have never asked themselves and may take a few weeks to develop. Then figure out the smallest step toward your target—and take it. He says changing your actions is the only way to recover from burnout and “spring you from Einstein’s insanity trap” [i.e., doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result].
‘Physician burnout is not a mental illness,’ Dr. Drummond says, adding that it’s a natural consequence of the conditioning of the medical education process colliding with the demands of practicing medicine.
While recovering, you may feel guilty using some of your energy and time to pursue a more ideal practice instead of solely focusing on your patients, Dr. Drummond says. Not to worry. This feeling is a common reaction. Realize that burnout isn’t sustainable and that you must take care of yourself before you can help anyone else.
“Physician burnout is not a mental illness,” he says, adding that it’s a natural consequence of the conditioning of the medical education process colliding with the demands of practicing medicine. “Physicians and practice groups that will be successful in the future will be the ones that take on the ‘creative destruction’ of burnout. That’s the disruptive innovation we’re all looking for.”