Doctors, burnout and the other side

Today is the laziest day I have had in just over 2 weeks. 12 days of acute medicine. 3 days off spend in 5 different cities. 3 nights shifts and the first real day of rest today.

I was just scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a picture from a fabulous doctor I follow about a conversation she had with one her friends about burn out and almost leaving medicine.

It inspired me to write this blog post.

We all go through so much in medicine and we speak about some of it, but so much happens  in one day it’s impossible to talk through it all. We don’t need to everyday but when you work hard for a long period of time things build up. I truly believe we all need to wind down. Good food, family, friends. There lovely things in life are an essential part of being a half decent doctor, or whatever else makes you happy.

Happy Salma is a much better doctor than overworked tired Salma, I’m very aware of this. But we have all experiences that feeling of burnout. I recently thought I worked so hard so having a brilliant social life for 3 days was necessary. And it was to an extent but I also needed some rest. After my past few days my mind and body NEED a break which I am very conscious of and taking now. Otherwise burnout is too easy. It’s early days with this doctor jig for me and I’m learning the the importance of these things as I muddle through.

Have a read below for some of the stories from doctors about burnout for them and the other side.  Have a great day. Salma xxx

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Life gives you a choice. Being passionate about ones work and dedicated, its easy to slip into a cocoon. As the NHS demands more, patients want more, it’s not too difficult to move into a mode of doing that “bit more”. However, to do justice to ones role, one needs to also look after oneself- whether it is taking time out with friends, family or even something simple as trashy movies or comic books! No one is indispensable…take your time outs, take your breaks, make time for your family…a burnt out professional is no good to anyone- and if anything, creates more work for others. Vocation is not simply a romantic terminology, it indeed is important- but it never should be a tool used by others to burnout the inner drive of a professional. To quote Jon Acuff “Burn your dream bright. Pursue it with the best of who you are. But don’t confuse hustle with burnout. Hustle fills you up. Burnout empties you. Hustle renews your energy. Burnout drains it”. We would, in our busy lives, do well to remember that.

 

The time that truly comes to mind was when I had qualified as a doctor and started my VTS training for general practice. After a very punishing attachment in Obstetrics and Gynaecology I then did Paediatrics. Being the first time I was around small children I seemed to be on a train of viruses and illnesses yet never took any time away. I lost weight and became exhausted and withdrawn and as the rotation drew to an end I was scheduled to start accident and emergency. I remember feeling so utterly scared and alone that I contemplated an alternative pathway from medicine. I asked if I could do swap into a psychiatry attachment to buy 6 months before the A&e job. Instead my VTS coordinator was very sympathetic and could see that throught medical school and pre reg jobs I'd never really had time out to reflect. She suggested a 6 month Career break and it was a brilliant suggestion. I went back to my family, did a few Locums which interestingly gave me lots of confidence. I also did some online learning and then travelled.  When I returned to my VTS training I was put on an innovative scheme and I found this brilliant because I had some autonomy on which specialities I could do.  Looking back you often feel trapped because no one really talks about burnout and there is a bit of bravado and hierachy especially from the senior doctors.   Recognising that just because you've signed up to a rotation, it doesn't mean you are trapped. It's not healthy to be sleep deprived, ill, and scared. Talking about it is so important and realising you have a long journey ahead so cut yourself some slack and don't feel it's a race to consultancy or GP status.
The time that truly comes to mind was when I had qualified as a doctor and started my VTS training for general practice. After a very punishing attachment in Obstetrics and Gynaecology I then did Paediatrics. Being the first time I was around small children I seemed to be on a train of viruses and illnesses yet never took any time away. I lost weight and became exhausted and withdrawn and as the rotation drew to an end I was scheduled to start accident and emergency. I remember feeling so utterly scared and alone that I contemplated an alternative pathway from medicine. I asked if I could do swap into a psychiatry attachment to buy 6 months before the A&e job.
Instead my VTS coordinator was very sympathetic and could see that throught medical school and pre reg jobs I’d never really had time out to reflect. She suggested a 6 month Career break and it was a brilliant suggestion. I went back to my family, did a few Locums which interestingly gave me lots of confidence. I also did some online learning and then travelled.
When I returned to my VTS training I was put on an innovative scheme and I found this brilliant because I had some autonomy on which specialities I could do.
Looking back you often feel trapped because no one really talks about burnout and there is a bit of bravado and hierachy especially from the senior doctors.
Recognising that just because you’ve signed up to a rotation, it doesn’t mean you are trapped. It’s not healthy to be sleep deprived, ill, and scared. Talking about it is so important and realising you have a long journey ahead so cut yourself some slack and don’t feel it’s a race to consultancy or GP status.

 

my fy1 year was pretty cool. i was working at a big teaching hospital and spent much of the year well and truly wrapped in cotton wool, with lots of senior support. but then, in one of the last weekends of the year, i was covering the surgical wards when i came across a terminal cancer patient with an aggressive family. after spending much of my weekend clamoring to the patient (and family) needs, i got to sunday evening when she further deteriorated. i prescribed a medication on the advice of a senior that she reacted badly to, causing her to die traumatically and violently in front of her family and me. i'd never felt more alone in all my life. in the hours and days that followed, i did much soul searching. i kept telling myself that i'd killed her. in hindsight, this was not only melodramatic - it was also plainly inaccurate. several years later, i'm still here. still a doctor. still love my job. so what got me through? friends, family, talking, listening, reflecting. in medicine, there are always difficult times. what matters is how we prepare and protect ourselves and the people that we surround ourselves with. the most valuable thing any doctor has - the people around them - both medical and non-medical. Embrace them and treasure them.
My fy1 year was pretty cool. I spent much of the year well and truly wrapped in cotton wool, with lots of senior support. Then one day I came across a terminal cancer patient with an aggressive family. One evening, they deteriorated. I prescribed a medication on the advice of a senior that they reacted badly to, causing a traumatic and violently death in front of the family and me. I’d never felt more alone in all my life. In the hours and days that followed, I did much soul searching.
I kept telling myself that I’d killed the patient. In hindsight, this was not only melodramatic – it was also plainly inaccurate. Several years later, I’m still here. Still a doctor. Still love my job. So what got me through? Friends, family, talking, listening, reflecting. in medicine, there are always difficult times. What matters is how we prepare and protect ourselves and the people that we surround ourselves with. The most valuable thing any doctor has – the people around them – both medical and non-medical. Embrace them and treasure them.

 

 

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