Why Burned Out
Doctors Need Faith

Practicing faith is more than an adherence to religious doctrine or beliefs.

For me, having faith is living in a state of hopefulness and trust. It’s believing that everything will work out for the best in the end, in spite of the chaos of the present moment.

For doctors maneuvering their way through the hectic days and nights on-call, practicing faith is a must.

In my book Remedy for Burnout: 7 Prescriptions Doctors Use to Find Meaning in Medicine, practicing faith is one of the prescriptions I recommend to doctors staring down burnout.

The doctors I interviewed for the book were from diverse backgrounds; some religious, others not. I don’t put the word “faith” in a little box that I only think about on certain days of the week. I encourage you to open your definition of faith, too.

Faith as it’s used in medicine can mean many things.

It can be faith in your training. Faith in your staff. Faith in your equipment in the O.R.

It can also mean looking deep inside yourself. It’s trusting the tug of intuition that nudges you to give the pathology report a second review. It’s the gut feeling you have that drives you to give that patient a call at the end of the day, even though you are tired and hungry.

Faith in medicine is the steadiness that anchors you when doctors everywhere are crying in their spilled milk about the healthcare system going haywire. It’s having that tiny thread of hope to hang in there, to believe that we will slowly, but surely guide this ship to a safe harbor.

Faith is trusting that your inner compass is pointing you to do the right thing.

Looking for ways to practice faith without a rabbi or a preacher? Here are a few examples of faith that might help you out in your medical practice:

  1. Release a task to someone else and trust that they will do it right. Your scrub tech can cut those surgical knots. Just give her a chance.
  2. TWEETABLE: “Show your vulnerability and have faith that it will be appreciated.” @StarlaFitchMD  It’s okay, even awesome, to admit that you are human.
  3. Say no as your first response when you’re asked to do something extra that’s not on your list. How is this showing faith? It proves that the person won’t be mad at you if you don’t serve on the committee or make those cookies for the second grade class. You have to have faith that you don’t have to be all things to all people.

We can be reminded in many ways of faith, from our families to our science.

Faith is trust. You got this.

CATEGORIES: Blog on September 29, 2014 by Starla Fitch, M.D.

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One thought on “Why Burned Out
Doctors Need Faith

  1. Pam Pappas

    Thanks again for articulating what so many of us feel inside, but have difficulty putting into words. Also, the learning to say “no” part is very much needed in our ranks, since focusing on the people and things we’ve already committed to is essential! Keep on writing and sharing, Dr. Starla. 🙂


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