A letter from our Co-Editor-In-Chief, Dr. Archana Shrestha:

Dear Reader,

Have you ever taken the Physician Burnout Survey? The article we published last week on burnout got me thinking about an experience I had with the survey. 

Because I work with residents, the residency program has sent me the physician burnout survey a few times for me to fill out. (I guess they want to make sure the faculty who are working with residents aren’t majorly burnt out and don’t rub their “burnt out feelings” off on the house staff.)

Much to my surprise the first time I took the survey, it said I was “high risk for burn out.”  But I didn’t feel particularly burnt out.

In fact, there was a time earlier in my career that I did truly feel burnt out but I was going through some major life changes then. I had just had my first child and was trying to figure out how to balance being a mom and my career as an emergency physician. 

When I felt that way back then I made some major changes. I started prioritizing self-care by working out daily, eating better, and even scheduling more regular massage treatments. I made an effort to truly work on myself by reading personal development books and also surrounding myself by more positive, uplifting people too. I also sough more help with running the household – a nanny, house cleaner and landscaper.  I overall felt much happier and better after making those changes. 

I continue to do all of those things now. So how was it that this survey was telling me I was burnt out? Was it truly burnout or was I just “jaded” after practicing emergency medicine for 10 years as an attending? I had so many questions and despite this survey telling me that I was burnt out, I didn’t know what to do next except ponder if that was really true.

I sort of wished someone would call me, perhaps a counselor or someone who received my results, to discuss if I truly was burnt out. Or I wish they would have connected me with some resources on physician burnout to explore. I wondered what was the point of me being given this survey result only to be left to figure out what to do next about it all on my own?

To me it was sort of like walking up to a patient lab reports in hand and telling them, “You have Type 2 Diabetes”  and just walking out of the room without anything further and not telling them what that meant and what the treatment plan was. 

This experience I had was part of the reason we decided to put together a Burnout Workshop at our conference and wellness retreat this spring. If I was “high risk for burn out” and didn’t even realize it, we wondered could other women doctors also be?

So as part of this workshop we will not only take the survey but then we will also have discussions in small groups about the results and what can be done to overcome burnout. We will share tons of tips and resources to help you handle whatever types of results that you get so that you leave with a plan of how to have a thriving and happy career as a doctor. 

If you or any other women doctors you know is perhaps feeling burnt out or wondering if you are burnt out, we hope that you will attend the conference so that you can relax, grow and connect with us. And so that together we can work on solutions to help overcome burnout. 

Thanks for taking time to read this letter. And if nobody has told you yet this week, YOU are an amazing doctor who is making a huge impact on the lives of many. Thank you for all you do.

Best Wishes
Archana Shrestha, MD

Women in White Coats Blog