We may have to accept that the true nature and demands of our jobs as physicians today, regardless of specialty, will never revert back to the simpler times. Remember when you could simply write orders in a chart? Or spend time on a patient's history and physical and worry about charting - with a pen - later? Medicine is continuing to become more complex and driven by technology. We know more about the drivers of burnout but the crisis is not getting any better. Perhaps one of the best solutions is to do less of the root cause - the practice of medicine.
Hang in with us.
We understand this may lead to a reduced income, having to explore alternative options, and possibly relocating, but both we as physicians and those in leadership positions in the system, need to start thinking outside the proverbial box. Reducing the number of hours you work doesn't mean you have to work less than 40 hours per week, but instead, maybe just work 40 hours per week instead of 50 to 60 or more. Ultimately, what other change will have as great an impact to your well-being as working less?
We are learning more about how much suffering the profession of medicine can inflict on physicians, and at the same time how fulfilling it can be, so what if a true 'balance' existed to create the space and time to find more joy and energy in it? With the amount of physicians choosing to leave clinical practice altogether, 'the system' would be wise to work with physicians to explore alternative solutions.
The only thing in life that we can truly control is ourselves. This often means looking at ways to change our situation that can lead to growth, perspective and resilience. With our profession at this critical juncture, we need to take action - our well-being depends on it. By making changes individually, we can in turn make changes to the system as a whole.
In a recent article Physician Burnout: Contributors, Consequences and Solutions by well-known MDs in the area of physician burnout West, Dyrbye and Shanafelt, they point out that there is still a lot of work to be done in this arena. Questions remain unanswered:
Do proposed combined individual and system changes work?
How are we truly standardizing research given variations in demographics and definitions of burnout?
What are the economic and patient outcomes of potential burnout interventions?
Still so much work to be done.
Who knows...maybe pieces of medicine will revert back a bit to resemble the pre-technology era. We never thought we would see radio and movie theatres make a resurgence with the advent of satellite TV, You Tube, iTunes, etc. but now podcasts are soaring and good luck seeing a new release movie at the theatre!
One can only hope that we will see a glimpse of the simpler days when the only thing that stood between a physician and patient was a paper chart and pen.