doctor burnout
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Doctors Are Burning Out. Here’s What Needs to Happen

Burnout is everywhere and is especially pronounced in our physician friends and colleagues. 

Approximately 300-400 doctors die each year by suicide. Or one per day, a rate that is almost double that of the general population.

Doctors, you need a break and not just a brief vacation. How can you do this and still keep your physician identity intact?

This is how.

1 – Take Time Off Between Jobs

If you’re considering changing jobs, transitioning from one career phase to another, moving, or simply considering your options, then build in some time off. 

Once one gig ends, take some time off before starting the next. This is possible, doable, and necessary. 

It’s almost impossible to take extended leave during a full time job. When else can you take a 6-week break? An 8-week break? Can you imagine taking real time off? 

If you can’t imagine it, and it scares you, then you must certainly do it.

2 – Clear Away Your Guilty Conscience

Every physician out there feels guilt when taking time off, taking a vacation, saying no, or taking any step to stick up for themselves. 

I’ve been there and experienced it myself. 

Here’s your friendly reminder: as far as your job is considered, you are replaceable. But for your family and friends, you are not. 

If there are issues at work related to staffing, scheduling, coverage, and the like, it’s not your responsibility to fix them. Those issues exist due to bad administrative decisions and must be fixed from the top. You working overtime, taking on extra work, or shouldering the stress of administrative work to “help out” without extra pay, is not going to solve anything.

3 – Adjust New or Upcoming Contracts

If you’re about to sign a contract for a new job, be sure to adjust the start date to one that suits you and your needs. In other words, fulfill part one by asking for the start date that allows you to take proper time off. Don’t worry, they won’t take your job offer away.

If someone is offering you a job, you have the upper hand. Don’t let them guilt you (see point number 2) into starting earlier because “they need help.” If that’s the case, hire more people. Barring you making crazy requests, you will get what you ask for. Time off is not unreasonable, and they know that. Don’t let them take advantage of you.

4 – Create A Financial Plan

Before you can take a real break, you have to consider the real financial ramifications of doing so. We all have living expenses and require income to take care of them. The idea here is to de-stress, not create more of it. Consider this and adjust accordingly. 

This could translate to spending less for a few months leading up to your leave. You may also consider downsizing your living space if you’re transitioning to a new location.

If you’re in deferment for student loans, you’ll get a grace period before your payments kick in. If you need to, you may also go into deferment for a short period of time to allow yourself some financial breathing room during your time off.

On the same note, be sure you arrange for insurance coverage (if applicable) during your unpaid time. 

Regardless, having a few weeks of unpaid life will be worth the trouble if it can help you reset and recalibrate!

5 – Be Intentional About Time Off

Treating burnout is not just about taking time off. It’s also important to consider what you’ll do during that time. 

What do you need to get back to your normal self? What kind of activities help you recharge? What kind of atmosphere or surroundings are conducive to recalibrating? Do you need someone to talk to

If a real vacation and travel are in the cards, remember that there are budget friendly travel options available to help you spend less. You may also opt to staycation or take a road trip to help you decompress.

Take Back Control

As physicians, you have given your time to study, work, train, and to learn. Now, take time, for yourself, for your family, for your sanity.

Our jobs should not dictate how we spend our time. Rather, we need to make sure that, in addition to our careers, we have time to be human and do the things we enjoy.

So use your time off to reconnect with yourself and to remind yourself of the things you love and are passionate about outside of work.  Use those hours and days to do something that helps you truly relax and reminds you of all of your strengths so that when you come back to work, you’re not only well-rested but also empowered to tackle the work ahead of you.

It’s important to not only take time off between jobs but also to carry this idea with you throughout your career.

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