I am the Face of Burnout

I am the face of early career female physician burnout.

And I fought it so hard.

Until I realized that in order to overcome this foe, it wasn’t me that was broken. It wasn’t me that need to be fixed. It wasn’t something inherently wrong with me. 

I was working from a place of exhaustion and overwhelm.

My wellness reserves had been long tapped out years ago. 

For me, the emotional exhaustion came first. It was a sneaky one. 

“I was just tired.” 

“I just need to start exercising/eating well/going to church again.” 

“It’ll get better once I can (fill in the blank with the many things we know we should do).”

It crept into my life, home and work without notice. I blamed having small children, transitioning, the commute. 

Then, my spectrum of emotions narrowed and dried up. I no longer felt happiness as deeply as I once did nor could I accept others displays of affection. It felt as though I was getting numb, apathtic despite trying to feel. I didn’t go to medicate with prescriptions, drugs or alcohol. But my mind, as a protective measure, was slowly infusing me with numbness.

Except for angry. Anger got bigger, thicker and so did cynicism. I didn’t even recognize some of the words spewing from my mouth. 

Last, settled in on me the weight of ineffectiveness. Was I even helping others? What do I really do with my day? Is this all my life is going to be? If this is really my purpose, why do I feel some empty? What is my purpose?

I was frustrated all the time by everything 

And Hopelessness.

Hopelessness was the worst. Sunday nights I dreaded. My flicker of hope was dying.

Until, I was told “This does not define you, Errin. You define yourself. Redefine yourself. Throw the rulebook away and start over. You control your life. You. are. not. stuck.”

My story continues with an amazing journey from a place of burnout, brokenness and despair to one that is joy-filled, sustainable and that I absolutely freaking love.

But I wanted to share my depth of burnout so you know you are not alone.

Acknowledge your own burnout and if you want to talk to someone who understands and came out the other side, I got your back any day of the week!

Visit me at www.truthrxs.com or schedule a call to talk with me bit.ly/talkwitherrin. No selling, no sleaze! Just 2 colleagues talking together with some coaching magic to help you on your way, promise!

Errin Weisman DO

Errin Weisman, DO is the self-proclaimed wellness guru on Authentic Medicine. She is a life coach, podcaster and fierce advocate for wellness in medicine. She faced professional burnout early in her career and speaks openly about her story in order to help others, particularly female physicians and working moms, know they are not alone. Dr. Weisman wholeheartedly believes to be a healer, you must first fill your own cup. She lives and practices life coaching and medicine in rural Southwestern Indiana, loves her roles as farmer’s wife, athlete and mother of three.You can find out more about Dr. Weisman on her podcast Doctor Me First, her website truthrxs.com or hang out with her on social media @truthrxs. Her podcast is “Doctor Me First”. 

  24 comments for “I am the Face of Burnout

  1. Retired
    November 18, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    I left over 3 years, starting 58. What a waste. The industry likes to beat up docs. Docs need formidable resources outside of work to stay at work. Major stressors in other spheres of your life Venn diagram and … everything gives, work gets quit last —> downsize expenses severely. Find a different passion with trial and error, stubbornly (remember: sick or dead external resources). Regain physical fitness, at older age. We were trained to live for working and I loved it. I have found something else to work that hard at. Smug smack downs indicate dull comfortable people with narrow minds.

  2. Zac DiPaolo
    November 16, 2019 at 10:54 pm

    To each their own. I love my job (most days). Nothing worth having in life is easy or else everyone would have/do it. I literally get to (at minimum) help people or (at maximum) change lives. Don’t like being a doctor? That’s fine. Don’t complain about it…get a different job. Think the grass is greener? It’s probably not. Sitting behind a desk making phone calls all day. Not enjoyable. Manual labor digging and installing sprinkler systems. Not a walk in the park. Heck, taking care of kids full time. Most difficult job in the world. I’m not saying you should get over being burnt out. I’m saying, don’t complain, people ARE difficult. Medicine IS tough. But so are most jobs. Enjoy the fact that you DO get to help some. “Burn out” complaining is a bad look for us as most people in the world already envy what we do. But yes, by all means, and I’m serious, If you are burnt out, just quit. Move on. Do something different. Life is too short to be miserable.

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    • Lynn
      November 17, 2019 at 7:59 am

      Well stated.
      We all have choices.
      And with an MD, many more options than most people.
      Feel like you are trapped in your job situation?
      You put yourself there.
      Everyone is exactly where they want to.

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    • Stacia Mills
      November 18, 2019 at 11:14 pm

      What a disappointing comment; saying just quit medicine because you believe one isn’t suited for it. Burnout is real and you and people like you are part of the problem. Jobs can be difficult without burning people out. No job should make one numb and only feel anger; that is unhealthy and we are ineffective physicians when we cannot feel compassion for others and instead feel anger and cynicism. I have been in the same place as the author when I was in residency. I was burned out due to a toxic environment with administration that was malignant, support staff that refused to do their jobs, and an overall attitude that county hospitals are an acceptable place to disregard safety of patients and others. Now that I’m in a more functional environment, I love my work again and have returned to my old self. Let’s stop putting each other down and start lifting each other up. Medicine will never improve with the negative attitudes that are often shown toward each other. Just because it’s medicine does not mean we cannot improve our environment and have that lead to overall improvement in patient care.

  3. Joe Smegma DO
    November 14, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    We have a priveleged position in society? Grow up? Are you aware of the suicidal tendencies of physicians? 300-400 physicians kill themselves each year. Approximately double the general population according to the American Psychiatric Association. A physician in my call group hung himself. I think it’s fair to say you missed the point Lynn. The next time I see a depressed and suicidal patient I’ll make it a point not to tell them to “grow up” or “fix their serotonin levels”. Nice job Dr Weisman. Burnout needs to be discussed more amongst physicians who understand the stressors involved in the daily grind of medicine.

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  4. Lynn Mills
    November 13, 2019 at 11:37 am

    It is called work for a reason.
    You are well paid for what you do and
    have a privileged position is society.

    Time to grow up.

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    • Pat
      November 14, 2019 at 8:31 am

      Privileged? Do you mean the recurrent, periodic theft committed against us by the state on behalf of “the public”? Perhaps you mean the onerous, insulting board re-certification requirements foisted on us by extortionist, self-loathing organized medicine and medical specialty groups? Or by privileged do you refer to the great honor of patients routinely mistrusting one, preferring the advice of Dr. Google or the medical expertise of a family member unburdened with any formal training? This of course, when the patient and/or all associated family and neighbors is not completely thrilled and satisfied can result in threats, spreading false info in the community (for which the doctor has no rebuttal), anonymous complaints to state medical boards, and of course, easy money lawsuits.

      Do you mean the privilege of working not for the patient, but for their third-party payer who requires so many clicks for inane, pointless data, even as they pile on more costs and cut one’s while the patient sits there with a list of “…and while I’m here” complaints? Do you mean the privilege of working for a minimum of a decade, over hours few would ever tolerate, running up debt, burning one’s soul out, sacrificing youthful, happy years, and staring into the inevitable abyss of decay and death for years before ones time? Do you mean the loss of enjoyment and satisfaction that was foolishly thought to be part of this path? Is that the privilege to which you refer?

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      • Rick
        November 14, 2019 at 12:02 pm

        Oh Pat, c’mon, tell us what you really think! 😉

        • Lynn Mills
          November 14, 2019 at 12:19 pm

          Perhaps “respected position “ captures the meaning I intended, ‘privileged’ is admittedly a poor word choice.
          You are quite articulate in your misery.
          Life is always about choices and …..serotonin levels. You have the ability to change both.

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          • Pat
            November 14, 2019 at 2:13 pm

            Thanks… though “respected position” is just as funny. I hope no one reads your suggestion – I can see CMS and insurance companies mandating all “providers” be on SSRI’s.

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      • John
        November 17, 2019 at 6:26 am

        Pat Well said. And you should consider a vacation.

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    • November 15, 2019 at 10:26 pm

      The Zoloft ad got you – therapeutic levels are about 10-100x higher levels required forserotonin reuptake inhibition. It’s probably the post-synaptic 5HT receptor or down stream process, thus the newer drugs like Vybrid and such.

      However, MDMA floods you with serotonin, and it will make you feel better faster. I don’t recommend that.

      There is a common clinical expression that is apt for certain situation, where the patient is struggling with overwhelming social and economic problems, irresolvable yet unacceptable stressors, unsafe living and working conditions, lack of support at home, violence, inhumane working condition, long term concerns about effects on children.

      Our impulse is to call it depression. Or maybe we call it burnout in more “well off” folks.

      However, we all should recognize clinically that ‘You can’t fix ****ty life syndrome with an SSRIs prescription.”

      Yep. Look around. We are that patient now.

    • Reena Bose
      November 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm

      Time to be more open minded and mindful of our physician colleagues who are struggling with burn out and lack of self worth!

  5. Rick
    November 10, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Adulthood: Eat, sleep, work, repeat.
    I remember the words of my eastern European, WW2 vet, depression-era Father: you don’t need to enjoy your work; you do it to earn your living.
    Honestly, that philosophy has helped me enjoy my life.
    I try not to focus on the downside. Not saying I am often successful but I try and it helps.
    We’re not digging sitches.

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    • Rick
      November 10, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      ditches

    • Pat
      November 10, 2019 at 4:47 pm

      I agree. I think too many physicians are harmed by trying to believe this is something that should be enjoyable, or up lifting. Recognizing that it is not has made the disappointment far easier to bear. It would be crushing to have significant emotional investment in this job.

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      • Sir Lance-a-lot
        November 11, 2019 at 10:26 pm

        “It would be crushing to have significant emotional investment in this job.”

        This is why I do Urgent Care instead of the Primary Care for which I was trained (and which I am not bad at).

        Take your Zithromax, we’ll call you with your STD results, and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

        • Pat
          November 12, 2019 at 9:39 am

          Ditto ER.

  6. Sir Lance-a-lot
    November 9, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    “My story continues with an amazing journey from a place of burnout, brokenness and despair to one that is joy-filled, sustainable and that I absolutely freaking love.”

    As someone who was quite crispy before I even started med school, with nearly thirty years of solid burnout symptoms behind me, and absolute disgust for every single thing I do at work, I must ask, respectfully, how on God’s green earth did you pull that off?

  7. Natalie Newman, MD
    November 9, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Well said, Dr. Weisman, well said.

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  8. Ken
    November 9, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Lousy administrators, time consuming EHR, missed diagnoses, and not enough time—I can put up with all of these , but obnoxious patients have contributed to my burnout more than any other factor. One of the reasons I like the old Placebo Journal was its recognition of these often-ignored stressors

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    • Pat
      November 9, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      You nailed it. The less patient interaction, the better.

      • Kurt
        November 15, 2019 at 8:37 am

        One way to get out of this BS is to do what I’m going to do. Retire at 65. Job sucks and I have a lot of outside interests to keep me occupied and the money to fuel the fire. I’m conservative and it won’t cost much to do but I need the Medicare thing.

        • Rick
          November 15, 2019 at 11:54 am

          Well, you don’t have to retire to fix things. Though at 65 I am sure you are ready. Don’t submit to the “system”. Fix yourself. Do DPC.
          I have a solo Endocrinologist moving into my building. I want to hug her and tell her I am proud of her. Yes it takes brass ones to fix yourself. But it can be done. Because people are doing it.

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