Karen Nash is a medical reporter and media consultant based in Monroeville, PA.
"I struggle with fighting burnout because I don’t think I’ve done it as well as some people. People advised me to establish a better work-life balance," says one urologist.
Urology Times® reached to three urologists (selected randomly) and asked them each: Do you ever face feelings of burnout? How do you cope?
“I don’t feel burned out. One reason people do is they feel they don’t have value to the system, their voices aren’t heard or their job is less gratifying.
The dehumanizing aspects of medicine are something I was born into. I trained on electronic medical records and in a multispecialty group practice. Many things people point to as sources of burnout have been there throughout the entirety of my experience.
I find incredible gratification in the perfection of my craft and the ability to provide care I find meaningful to patients.
Burnout is a nebulous concept. I’m the first physician in my family, so I’m grateful for being able to do what I do. So gratitude is part of it.
That being said, I exercise. I meditate. I spend time with family and try to cultivate hobbies and other things that provide meaning in my life, things you’re supposed to do to avoid burnout. It’s hard to know whether I’m refractory to burnout or whether I’m just in the honeymoon phase. I don’t know how I’ll feel in 15 years when somebody enacts a completely meaningless policy with no evidentiary basis and makes me comply.
People who’ve been practicing a while are the ones who struggle the most—midcareer, late career, especially those in private practice. Anyone who had so much control of their surroundings where they were boss—a lot of those folks struggle the most.”
Jesse D. Sammon, DO / Portland, ME
“I‘ve done general surgery, urology, pediatric urology. I’ve been in academics most my life. For the past 7 years--primarily by myself, I’ve covered call 24 hours a day. Sometimes I get tired, but at Nemours, we have a medical school with med students and residents. The teaching component and patients from wonderful families keep me going.
I can have a long day, then a student sends a note, ‘My paper got accepted,’ and you just know how excited they are. I also write books, primarily geared to the layperson. That keeps me feeling engaged.
You may think that would make me more tired, but just sitting around, not getting involved would be more discouraging than trying to find new ways of doing things. Getting up at 8 o’clock, going to work, and doing the same thing every day would be harder for me.
There are also personal things. I tell my residents you’ve got to laugh each day. Even if it’s the worst day ever, you have to find something stupid you can laugh at.
Also, I got home last night so tired, but my Grinch needlepoint was staring at me—I had to do a little more before I went to sleep. I have to carve out something each day that is selfish and totally for me.
You have to prioritize things that must get done and realize you won’t get everything done all the time.”
Pamela I. Ellsworth, MD / Orlando, FL
“I’ve often wondered if I’m just frustrated; the feeling of burnout waxes and wanes. Within the past year, I’ve felt things escalating.
Burnout comes from the added stresses of the increasingly complex business of medicine in America. Negotiating health insurance gets more complicated, government accreditations more complex, EMRs add to the workload, and health care systems merge and increase in size and complexity while physicians play a smaller role and administrators a bigger role in determining health care. Physicians lose a sense of autonomy.
I struggle with fighting burnout because I don’t think I’ve done it as well as some people. People advised me to establish a better work-life balance. You see fewer patients, but you can’t cut back on bureaucracy. You sacrifice the part of medicine you love most, but still have to do work that contributes to burnout.
What I found that energized me were opportunities to collaborate with other physicians. When I started working with other surgeons on things I traditionally did alone, the job was much more fun. There was more communal responsibility; I benefited from the collective wisdom of my colleagues, and beyond that, from friendships with them.
I’ve even extended the idea of collaboration to the administration. I don’t know if I can make changes, but I feel they’re listening.
At times, I found it helped to say the Serenity Prayer multiple times a day. That little prayer helped me step away from frustrating situations and empowered me to make changes.”
John V. Kryger, MD / Milwaukee, WI