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We Can't Dig Out of Burnout by Overworking

Can we pretend that this is Physician Appreciation Week for a moment? I know that’s in March, but my conversations with physicians this week got me thinking about the intensity of physicians’ workload and the impact of our culture of overworking on physicians’ well-being.

One primary care doc shared that she spends most of her weekend trying to wrap up chart notes while ignoring her children’s innovative strategies to break into her locked office.

Another shared that she feels lost in an endless surge of telehealth patients and disconnected from colleagues and herself.

They both shared that they’ve been trying to keep their heads above water by dropping their hours, trying new time management strategies, working to increase the efficiency of their charting time, skipping lunch, and working in the evenings.

Both shared that they feel like cogs in a giant healthcare wheel, expected to produce widgets and not given time to connect with people in a meaningful way.

And they both asked me the same questions. Is it me? Am I just not cut out to be a physician? Or is it the system? If I quit, will it be any better somewhere else?

I remember asking these same questions. And I remember trying to fix burnout by working harder and going overboard on my self-care. Note writing at lunch, check. Staying late, check. Weekend charting, check. Yoga, check. Biking to work, check. Mindfulness, check. Did I feel better? Nope.

Burnout is influenced by systemic factors, such as workload and ability to influence our schedule, and personal factors, such as gender, self-care practices, and having children at home.

But when we ignore the systemic factors and go overboard to address the personal factors, trying to dig ourselves out of burnout, we end up in a state of deeper alienation and depletion.

We can’t overwork or self-care our way out of burnout.

We must lean into our human frailty, acknowledge our limitations, and embrace community.

And we must acknowledge the flaws in our systems and begin to create a system that promotes healing that is not built for superhumans.

What’s new on Menders?

Menders’ women in leadership season will drop in mid-January! We’re exploring themes of early career leadership, the intersection of gender and race, women’s socialization, and the unique traits that characterize women as leaders.

  • Why leaders’ self-awareness impacts public health outcomes

  • What courage looks like in women

  • How the best leaders bring the personal into the professional

  • How we can help our staff go from superheroes to healers

  • And so much more!

But don’t wait for January, check out my conversation about goals and story with primary care physician and telehealth innovator Dr. Maia Carter today!

I’m excited to announce that I’m now offering a focused coaching series for Managers!

Are you a nurse manager, clinic manager, or unit supervisor? Are you struggling to manage organizational stressors such as burnout, misaligned policies, interpersonal conflict, or poor communication? Looking for help realigning your team with a culture of well-being? Systemic Stress Management for Managers may be perfect for you!

Want to Get to Know Menders at a Live Event?

Register NOW for my Upcoming Masterclass: We Can't Self-Care Our Way Out of the Healthcare Crisis: How to Avoid Three Mistakes Contributing to Burnout!

I’ll be hosting this live, interactive, and thought-provoking masterclass on Wednesday, December 14th, from 1130 -1300 PST:

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