For Doctors: Why Taking Time-Off Will Not Cure Your Burnout.
I recently spoke to doctors from all across Australia about their burnout – and it’s not looking good.
Burnout has reached plague proportions in this country. The recent suicides among doctors and medical students are just one symptom of a bigger underlying problem.
It may not be a diagnosable illness (yet) but it’s negatively affecting the lives of countless doctors and as a consequences, their patients too.
Doctors are missing out on time with their young children, their marriages are suffering, their health is slipping and many are starting to wonder if it’s all worth it.
Is being a doctor worth it if the cost is every other aspect of your life?
They’re wondering if they really want to be martyrs to the cause and end up resenting the job, their patients and colleagues.
Many of those I spoke to had already or were planning on leaving medicine – which is an incredible waste. While others were changing jobs hoping that the next one would somehow be better.
But the most common thing that doctors felt would help their burnout was….
More time off.
Then they would feel better and the job would be more enjoyable. It was amazing how many people brought this up!
The problem with a holiday is that once it’s over, you’ve got to go back to work!
Back to the same situation that caused the burnout in the first place. Sure, you may fight it off for a little longer this time, but it’s only a matter of time before it’s back.
And the next holiday won’t be enough before the burnout returns, and the cycle continues as it gets worse and worse.
It’s kind of like saying to a diabetic patient – you’ll be better if you stop eating for a while.
That only lasts so long and then they go back to the same crap diet as before. It’s not a solution and neither is taking a holiday.
So does that mean you need to leave your job?
This was another common solution many doctors were considering. However, if you’re in a training program, this is impossible.
Plus, medicine will always be the same. The job may vary slightly from place to place but jumping around isn’t a solution. You can’t do that forever. You’ll always have stress, pressure and challenges no matter where you work.
Should I quit medicine all together?
Hey, we’ve all had this thought.
We’ve all day dreamed about our ‘escape life’ – that life where you leave medicine and have a job where you have no problems, no worries and life is beautiful all the time.
Mine has always oscillated between becoming a barista (serving coffees would be so easy and fun) and moving to California to start a greasy taco truck while yelling at my staff in Spanish.
But let’s get real, you love medicine. You love being a doctor. You love helping your patients.
You’re just really burnout.
So what is the solution?
Well, after working with burnt-out high achievers like yourself, I’ve seen that the solution is a combination of two things.
The first thing is a bit obvious but it needs to be covered.
The second is the crucial step that nobody tells you about– the one that makes all of the difference.
So let’s start with the first:
Finding an area of medicine or a job that you love.
Now, I know I said that changing jobs doesn’t work – and it doesn’t if that’s your ONLY solution, if you’ve found a field that you do really love, or if you haven’t addressed the second factor I’m going to talk about in a sec.
But, for many people your current line of training may be one of the contributing factors.
I have a friend who was miserable in medicine for years. He moved from job to job. Dabbled with various specialisations and nothing. Still miserable.
Until he discovered a field of medicine that he finally fell in love with. For him that was non-clinical medicine. Moving into an office with minimal patient interaction was amazing for him. He was like a new man.
Now, I’m not saying that non-clinical is the solution for everyone. But it’s an example that your current field may not be right for you.
At the same time, my fear for this friend is that he may again start to hate his job – just like before. That’s because he hasn’t fully addressed the underlying problem,
The thing that makes all the difference,
The thing that may cause him and you to hate your job and life – which is the second part of the two part solution:
In my former life as an undergraduate (I did post-grad medicine), I was unhappy with my life. I decided that I had to leave my current environment and go somewhere where people wouldn’t be so annoying, where life wouldn’t suck so much.
So I went to California for a study abroad year. That’s where life would be amazing! People would be fun, life would be easy – good times all around. Just like in the movies!
Well, after only a few weeks I was walking through campus and realised that I had created the exact same miserable life for myself as back home. I was just as bored, unhappy and alone as before. The only difference was that I was in a different location.
That’s when I realised what the real problem was:
Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.
It was my habits, the way I was thinking about life, myself and other people that meant I would create the same life wherever I went. It was me that needed to change, not the outside environment.
Whichever job you go to, you are still there with all your attitudes, habits, and beliefs.
It’s these things that were creating the feeling that I had, it’s these things that have affected the lives of the high achievers I’ve worked with…
And it’s these things affecting your life too.
Now it’s not your fault and you’re not alone. This doesn’t mean that you’re broken, either.
What it does mean is that until you address these things, nothing will change.
No matter how many holidays you take, how much time off you have, what job you move to, whether it’s within medicine or in another career, you’ll continue to feel the dissatisfaction, frustration, exhaustion and eventual burnout.
That’s why I want to share with you the one thing I did which started to turn it all around for me. This one thing took me from a place of burn out, hating my life (even though I had it all) and ending up actually enjoying it and no longer burnt out.
To get the audio article which covers this, enter your details by clicking the link below and I’ll email it to you.