It sometimes starts with difficulty sleeping as your schedule rotates from days to nights back to days. You find yourself just as tired after six to eight hours of sleep as your are with four hours of sleep. Eating gets to be a chore so you raid the refrigerator grabbing something quick and probably high in calories or worse yet, fat. The drive to work seems like a drudgery. Then, when you’ve survived the commute to work without an episode of road rage, your partner starts your shift off with “remember that patient you sent home last night with chest pain?” With your pulse racing and as that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach starts to grind, you notice the paramedics coming down the hallway with your next patient and you sneer at the guys who just six months ago probably saved your life by helping you restrain a violent patient.
Does this sound familiar? Hopefully not, but if it does then it may be time to pause and re-asses your priorities. The best time to change direction is before you crash.
The internet is gorged with advice on how to “prevent physician burnout” but I believe it’s not that easy. It requires a listening ear that can hear the subtleties and pick up the body language that gauge the help you need. Your spouse, partner, or best friend might be able to help. I found having someone who’s been through the experience and can listen with empathy is the best person to have. Take the time to explore your options before you make a drastic change. Especially take time to find the right person to help you through it.
Norbert Adame, MD