Burnout is a real issue that every industry faces. Lately, it appears to be growing among physicians. I would like to take a few moments to share how I work to avoid burnout.
1. Know what really matters.
I focus on what is important and ignore what it isn't — concentrating on what I can control and not worrying about what I can't. I hate Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) as much as anyone. However, I've realized it probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I can either spend time and energy complaining about it or I can save that energy for something more meaningful. Knowing what really matters allows me to conserve energy for more important things in my life.
2. Find your mission and purpose.
Take time to find or rekindle your passion. What drives you? What inspires you? Hopefully you remember the reason you went to medical school and still feel that way. I know my mission and purpose and every decision I make is based upon them. It helps me identify what's important. Any action that doesn't help me pursue my mission and purpose is ignored.
3. Move forward to your goals.
I only take steps that will push me forward to my goals. Everything else is secondary in my life. Set your goals and make a plan to achieve them. Work on them every day. They should be tied to your passion, your mission, and purpose. There are some things that don't move you toward your goals, but must be dealt with — I'm not talking about those. I speaking about those things we waste time and energy on that don't yield us anything of real value. Ignore those things in your life.
4. Be stingy with your most precious resource.
I schedule time to spend with family and friends. I literally block it out on the calendar. It's protected time. During my family time, my kids know I won't let distractions occur. They also know when I'm working or on call, they must tolerate my divided attention. It's the nature of our business. The same goes with our friends. We all have 24 hours each day to spend. Spend them wisely. Spend them on what really matters.
5. Exercise your body and mind.
I exercise and spend time reading and thinking. It's a way I recharge. Pick a way that is good for you to recharge. It might be physical activity, going out with friends, solving puzzles or games, or spending time doing nothing at all. What matters is that you spend time relaxing and recharging. Again, schedule and block it out on a regular basis if possible.
6. Give to others.
I give to the community. I look for ways to help others outside my field of medicine. I help people at work but it does feel different, as I'm compensated for the care. Outside of medicine, the services I offer are free of charge. In a way, it's refreshing and relaxing. Look for a charitable organization you can get involved with. You'll be surprised how well and energized you will feel.
David J. Norris, MD, MBA, CPE, is an anesthesiologist at Wichita Anesthesiology Chartered in Wichita, Kan., and the owner of the Center for Professional Business Development. What do you do to relieve burnout? Tell us in the comment section below.