We have been hearing a lot about physician and other health care leader burnout. When I talk to clinicians, I often hear that that word doesn’t really resonate to what they really feel. It feels too extreme and almost a little hard to admit to.
That said, what I hear is tired, overwhelmed, distracted, unsupported. I hear a strong desire to slow down and simplify. I don’t care what you call it but those feelings are real and they ought not be ignored.
One of the groups that MOST ignores these feelings are the clinicians, and especially physicians. I get it, YOU are the healer. You are the person who knows the answers to how to heal from illness or injury. You are often the leader at work—or looked to as one, even if you feel a bit powerless in your role.
Also, just to find the time to have a deeper conversation about what you are experiencing is difficult. In between patients and meetings, you may have time for a quick “hello, how are you” but listening and responding to the answers is hard to do when you have 5 minutes til your next thing!
What I have heard is that your training tells you to “compartmentalize.” Focus on the diagnosis, the patient, the message, the allied staff, etc. But, “suck it up” if you have some feelings and move on. That is necessary to do on a day to day basis, but I am here to declare that it is not a long term strategy if you want to continue to be engaged and find the energy to continue your work that has been meaningful.
Physicians—and all health care staff, clinicians or not—have been “hard hit” with the pandemic and its impact on their practice, patients, families, staff, processes, technology, and the political culture surrounding your work. It’s okay to talk about this. It’s imperative to take the time to debrief and download. Feelings have likely “built up” and the best way to get through them is to get through them, not stuffing them or ignoring them. Naming them is the first step toward relieving negative feelings.
I know you can cope and don’t NEED anyone to talk to. Physicians who identify as “burnt out” will seek help but those who don’t feel like its “that bad” may hesitate to open up.
Here are some ideas:
- Find a friend/colleague and find a half hour. Ask your colleague to “just listen”, not fix it or even commiserate. Maybe they will ask some open-ended questions, empathize and show support. You can return the favor at another time.
2. Find time for “purposeful pauses to find the joy” in your day….to focus on the now, to focus on what is going right. There are things going right, even if you may not notice at a given moment.
3. Call a coach. You knew that was coming. The Bailey Group has many years of working with physicians and administrative leaders; we know there are no easy answers to what you deal with at work, but we can help you face it more objectively and find some ways to better thrive.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.