FEELING ALONE IN A VALLEY OF BURNOUT
Twelve years ago, I didn’t know that the symptoms I was suffering had a diagnosis of physician burnout. As a newly appointed faculty member in neurology at that time, no media headlines or studies were in existence to give my symptoms a name. Instead, I hoped that no one would find out the shame and struggles I was hiding underneath my starched white lab coat.
How do you know if you or a colleague is suffering from burnout? I always ask physician groups to look for the following: a feeling that the lights are on and no one is home. You may be going through the motions, struggling to keep up, and feeling disconnected from your life emotionally.
I just internalized the symptoms of emotional exhaustion and a low sense of personal accomplishment. I thought my problem was that I was a physician failure. I pushed myself to exceed RVU (relative value unit) expectations in the increasingly profit-driven world of medicine. I could never find the time in my 80- to 100-hour work week to catch up on research, medical records, or tend to my personal health.