Provider Burnout, in the Flesh

SEPTEMBER 09, 2015
Megan Weigel, DNP, ARNP-c, MSCN
What Are the Warning Signs?

According to Dike Drummond, MD, warning signs include not being able to recover on your days off, or simply during your non-working hours; feeling cynical, sarcastic, or negative towards patients; and the tendency to see your work as valueless/meaningless.
What Do You Do About It?

Self-care needs to become a priority. What else is going on in your life such that you cannot recharge?  What are you doing TO recharge? For example, are you investing time in unhealthy habits that actually make you more tired and can cause depression, like alcohol overuse? Can you start small? For example, five minutes a day of non-professional reading, deep breathing, prayer, or meditation? I have always admired my boss for leaving the office everyday at lunch. He remains with a positive attitude and a light outlook. He lets go, rejuvenates, and re-engages. If that is not possible in your clinic, can you shut the door for five minutes in the middle of the day? 
Take a look at your nutrition. Do certain foods make you feel bad? Work them out of your diet. Add in physical activity. Find an activity that you enjoy. Take competition out, unless you thrive in that environment. Enlist the help of your support system to uplift you: friends, family, church community, exercise community. Consider counseling, acupuncture, massage. Just say no. Make yourself a priority; say yes to your priorities, and no to things that get in the way of your time for renewal each day.
What happens when you ignore the warning signs? There are several possibilities. Continued stress, unhappiness, and eventual illness as a result are just a few. Then there are addiction, accidents, medical mistakes. In my case, I recognized the warning signs, and had to literally step out. I couldn’t find my way out of the labyrinth at home. I had a bad feeling that, if I did not take steps to slow down, something would do it for me…an accident, an illness, something undesirable. I took a financial risk, a career risk, a month away from my practice, and left the mainland US. A little more than halfway in, I can see much more clearly my worth, the importance of incorporating renewal daily, and, fortunately, how much I love what I do. I’ll be ready to return. My days will look different. I have already turned down two potentially exciting speaking engagements so that I am sure to have weekends at home, and I am not tired before the work week even starts. I am practicing the art of “No”. 
Anthony de Mello said, “Life is a banquet, and the tragedy is that most people are starving.” Dig in. To your life. You will be a better person for it, for yourself, your family, your friends, your staff, your colleagues, and your patients.  

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