We asked our medical student bloggers: Have you seen any burnout among your peers? If so, why do you think this is happening? How do you think it can be better recognized, managed or prevented? Here are their answers:
Jana Christian, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Just as learning how to create differential diagnoses and manage multiple medical issues are crucial skills developed in medical school, so too should be the task of learning to prevent or manage burnout in medicine. The best way to manage physician burnout is to discuss and anticipate these challenges BEFORE they become an issue; it is much more difficult to adjust once feelings of depression or cynicism become apparent. The new outpuring of research dedicated to understanding burnout needs to be actionalized. Changes could include the destigmatization of physicians’ use of mental health services and the encouragement of physicians to maintain the balance between work and family.
J. Chika Morah, University of Toledo College of Medicine in Ohio
Now that one class is coming to an end, there is definitely some burnout among my peers. Unfortunately, we will soon begin a class that lasts until May. I believe that burnout can be prevented by simply taking time to do what we love. Whether it is working out, playing an instrument, or going to a favorite restaurant, it is so important to dedicate time to “self.” Once this is neglected and things get out of balance, burnout begins to creep in and can be consuming at this point. Burnout may not be totally preventable, but it can definitely be managed.
Eduardo Salazar, The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
In terms of finding the cause of burnout, I think much of it comes from the challenging nature of medical school. Most medical students have always been the best at everything they have done, and medical school presents an environment that makes even the most talented people question themselves. Because we have never had to ask for help, a significant portion of students have not developed the skill of seeking help. I think setting aside time during the week where you isolate yourself from medical school can prevent burnout. We need to continue doing the things that have always made us happy.
Natalie Sous, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Many students do feel burnt out during the pre-clinical years. There is so much pressure to do well in classes that students begin to equate their test scores with their self-worth. Medical education can make students themselves feel dehumanized, which makes it harder to practice humanism and compassion towards others. I have found that the best way to avoid this is to get out in the community and work with patients. We feel good about ourselves when we help someone else, and it reminds us of the real reasons we signed up for medical school.
Evan Torline, University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky
Burnout is probably something every medical student has experienced at one point or another. I think what it comes down to is the countless hours you must spend to learn what medical students are required to learn. To truly succeed, there will be times you have to turn down all kinds of social activities from friends and family so you can study something that may not be that exciting. Suddenly it takes great effort just to find time for the simplest get together with friends. I think to stay sane during it all you have to forge a few strong friendships with whom you can do non-school related things. In the end, you have to continue having healthy strong relationships so as to not lose your human perspective in a field that desperately needs it.
Other questions our medical student bloggers have answered:
- How can medical training encourage more humanistic interactions with patients?
- Four years from now, what do you hope to remember about your White Coat Ceremony?
- When working with your cadaver, did you or your team do anything specific to humanize, or de-humanize, the body?
- Have you had any community service experiences that have influenced the way you think about a career in medicine?
- How can you tell if a medical school has a humanistic approach?