Support Can
Stop Physician Burnout

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As a doctor myself, I get it. We are reluctant to ask for help. Whether it is in the operating room, using the new EMR system, or prescribing a new medication, we are supposed to just be able to figure it out for ourselves.

When it comes to job despair, exhaustion, or burnout, forget it! We aren’t supposed to have any issues—let alone need help with them.

But this is where doctors get it wrong.

We all need support.

Fostering support is one of the prescriptions I discuss in my book, Remedy for Burnout: 7 Prescriptions Doctors Use to Find Meaning in Medicine.

Fostering support means asking—and receiving—support from your family, your friends, your colleagues, and even your patients.

Tweetable: “Support can make the difference between a breakdown and a breakthrough.” @StarlaFitchMD

Doctors who’ve made their way back from burnout have sought out and found support. They’ve realized they could no longer do it all alone. They made a conscious decision who they wanted help from, and they took the courageous step to ask for it.

Sometimes you can support yourself by reminding yourself of the positive things others have seen in you.

Here are some guidelines on where to start getting physician support from others:

  1. Be transparent. If you need help, ask for it. We all have built-in GPS systems. It’s no longer necessary to feel lost and not ask for directions. Help and recognition from others can be life altering.
  2. Remember your family is there to help you. You may be the Man of the House or the Woman in Charge, but there is no shame in reaching out. It’s often a softer landing to ask for help from family, where you can count on unconditional love.
  3. Look for ways to help others. You’ve seen it many times. Your colleague is overly grumpy or the O.R. supervisor is unexpectedly teary-eyed. Reach out and offer to help. Be there for them. Support is a two way street.

For doctors in training, the fostering support piece is crucial. Whether you’re in med school, residency or fellowship, know that your “Old School” docs are here to help you–despite what you may feel in the middle of a dressing down in Grand Rounds. If you need help, raise your hand. We’ll be there to reach right back.

It’s key to remember this: support doesn’t help if you aren’t open to receiving it. You must let the help in by dropping your armor of isolation. Support only works if you allow it.

CATEGORIES: Blog on October 6, 2014 by Starla Fitch, M.D.

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