Ways residents have found to conquer burnout

AMA Wire
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Emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism, detachment from patients—do these symptoms sound familiar? They can signal professional burnout, which studies show is more prevalent among physicians than other professionals. Experienced residents and fellows offer advice on what you can do to avoid burnout during training and become a more satisfied, resilient physician.

Medical students and residents are more likely to be burned out, depressed or fatigued compared to similarly aged college graduates pursuing other careers, according to a recent study in Academic Medicine.

“I think that intern year can be quite intimidating and overwhelming, and everyone feels like they are starting to burn out,” said Anna Piotrowski, MD, chief resident of the adult psychiatry residency program at the University of Chicago. “At that point, medicine becomes a job and a routine that you have to get through every day, instead of something engaging and enjoyable.”

When that feeling crept in, Dr. Piotrowski said her solution was to maintain perspective and make time to relax and unwind.

Tina Shah, MD, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at the University of Chicago and chair of the AMA Resident and Fellow Section (RFS), echoed Dr. Piotrowski’s advice.

“I tried not to isolate myself when I was feeling burned out and let off steam with my co-residents, who understood what I was going through,” Dr. Shah said. “When I was really motivated, exercising helped me feel less burned out.”

Dr. Shah also recommends having a specific hobby.

“Whether it’s running, playing video games or routine dinners with friends, this one activity will help you let go of the stress at work,” she said.

“It’s important to remember you are a human being with wants, needs and desires, rather than just someone in medical training,” Dr. Piotrowski said.

To prevent burnout before it sets in, many medical schools and residency programs are investigating and implementing resiliency training, teaching trainees to prioritize self-care and how to effectively manage their emotions.

Most graduate medical education programs have wellness resources, both for physical and mental issues. These resources range from stress management programs to help centers and exercise programs.

Although stress is inevitable, burnout is preventable. Make sure to identify coping strategies that work for you, and seek help if you need it.

“Burnout is dangerous, both for ourselves and for our patients,” Dr. Piotrowski said. “When you are an exhausted and unhappy medical student or resident, you may not be very good at taking care of your patients. You can get ahead of the situation and prevent it.”

You tell us: What methods do you use to beat burnout? Comment below at AMA Wire® or on the AMA-RFS Facebook page.

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other careers are FAR worse for burnout than a medical resident. stock brokers only last a few years as they have far higher pressure to perform for their clients. medical work is service based, NOT production. the medical professional just comes in to provide a service. a producer has to generate income at a professional level that has far more risk and worries. other careers also exist that have burnout at the rate of medical residents. this article completely exaggerates the work as if it is really the hardest line of work. pathetic. be realistic and look at all the jobs in the world. i didn't even mention the burnout rate of a military member in combat zone/war. i can go on and list other jobs with far higher burn out. let's not exaggerate and over react. all a resident needs to do is understand that he or she is there to work one day at a time, while learning a bit everyday. that's about it. if that resident gets burned out, it's his or her fault. remember, that resident is a service provider, NOT a producer and certainly not someone who faces death daily.
Comparing medicine and residency to being a stockbroker is completely ridiculous. You don't need anything past a 4-year degree. Medical students have been in school 8 years with debt on average equaling 200,000-300,000 and looking at another 3-8 years of training where they will be making hardly enough to support them self, let alone a family while paying toward their loans the whole time. When you add up what a resident makes, versus the average amount of time they spend at work/doing work related things, it adds up to less than minimum wage depending on program. I am not saying that other fields don't face burn out or stress. But the notion that service providers don't face stress that producers do is also grossly incorrect and insulting all service based jobs such as educational providers, social workers, nurses, law enforcement, etc. Just because residents don't have "numbers" to hit every month doesn't mean they don't have to be accountable for everything they do, don't do, know and don't know, aside from being evaluated all the time. Every field is honorable and their jobs important. No need to belittle one profession to make another sound better but realistically medical residency is in a category all on its own in terms uniqueness of situation and burn out.
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