The Counterintuitive Concept of Burnout Skills, (With 2023 Comments)
“Burnout skills are the actions at which you excel, that people identify as your strong points but which drain you of motivation. They are unable to energise you and therefore deplete you without refueling you.”
I wrote this a dozen years ago; one marriage and one job ago. We’re not quite doing this to ourselves, but our work ethic and the external forces’ lack of genuine interest in our well-being conspired to the worsening physician burnout epidemic we now find ourselves in. In 2011, the EMR I worked with was simpler, nimbler and less click-heavy and my employer’s reporting requirements were fewer and less detailed. So, let’s just say, we are still trying to do the right thing for our patients under ever-worsening conditions. And that has made things much worse than they were when I wrote that we were in large part bringing this on ourselves. We have not changed, but our circumstances certainly have. We have been like frogs in the proverbial pot of water on the stove; it heated up so gradually that we didn’t notice in time to do something about it!
Physicians solve problems. We always look for ways to make bad situations better. We rarely say that we can’t help a patient at least in some fashion, even if we can’t cure them. More often than not, we treat patients within the confines of financial or administrative limitations we have no control over.
Physician burnout is a common topic these days. Doctors blame patients, insurance companies, healthcare administrators and the government for their job dissatisfaction.
When thinking about what might put me at risk, I have always thought of burnout as a consequence of external forces or immovable obstacles.
The other night I suddenly realized I have always had the wrong perspective on how burnout occurs. It doesn’t only happen to us, we also bring it on ourselves.