President's Perspective December 2016
Are We Truly Stressed?
Sean T. Grambart, DPM, FACFAS
recently read that more than half of physicians in the U.S. are “burned
out.” Not just stressed, but actually so stressed they’re having
trouble regrouping between shifts. While this may be hard for some of us
to admit or understand, the research is telling us it’s true—we are
experiencing job burnout, and the reports say it’s not getting better.
to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, evidence is rapidly accumulating to
suggest physician burnout has reached epidemic levels in the U.S.
healthcare delivery system. Researchers state that 54.4 percent of
physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout, a rise of almost
nine percent in only three years. Physicians’ satisfaction with their
work-life balance had declined from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 40.9 percent
in 2014. Comparatively, the general adult population has a 28 percent
It’s inevitable that this crisis can lead to
decreased patient satisfaction, empathy and patient compliance...not to
mention malpractice and staff turnover. Yet, many doctors don’t
understand the pathology, markers or how to treat their own burnout. One
of the main reasons why is we often treat burnout and daily stress as
the same. In reality, they are very different. Stress is something that
drains you, but you are able to recover from it. Burnout is when you are
drained and not able to recover between shifts.
Drummond, MD, a physician coach, finds that physicians tend to use a
battery metaphor to describe stress and burnout: “My batteries are run
down” or “I’m recharging my batteries.” But he urges us to remember what
happens when our phone battery runs out—it stops working! Surgeons
don’t function like batteries.
I know we’re trained to run on
empty and continue to see patients long after we are completely
exhausted. Building the capacity to work despite complete exhaustion is
an unfortunate outcome of our medical education and training. However,
once you get out into practice, your whole life stretches out ahead of
you, and there’s only so long you can practice on empty before something
Dr. Drummond urges us to use three “Energetic
Bank Accounts” to gauge our energy levels: 1. Physical Bank Account
(Exhaustion); 2. Emotional Bank Account (Sarcasm, Cynicism, Blaming) and
3. Spiritual Bank Account (“What’s the use?”).
Each time you are
in the clinic or operating room, you expend physical, emotional and
spiritual energy. Once you become aware of the existence of the three
energetic bank accounts, your job becomes very clear—Keep all three
accounts in a positive balance: Physical—How is your energy? Are you in a
positive balance? Emotional—How are you feeling emotionally? Are you
getting your needs met in your most important relationships?
Spiritual—Do you feel your work makes a difference and is a meaningful
path for you?
Two ways to increase your energetic bank account
are to decrease the drain and to increase the deposits. If you feel one
or more of your “accounts” is out of whack, I urge you to read Dr.
Drummond’s book, The Happy MD, for his sage advice. Your goal is to develop new habits that maintain a positive balance in all three accounts.
more than 50 percent of us will be affected by this. So, I offer two
final suggestions: 1. Reach out to colleagues whom you know who are not
burned out and see how they manage their practice and lifestyle. 2.
And/or, if you see a colleague who is showing signs of burnout, reach
out to him or her as well.
Let’s start the New Year off with getting our Energetic Bank Accounts in balance for our families, patients and ourselves!