Preventing Physicians Burnout: Is There a Secret Recipe? Part II

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

Ways to forestall the deadly mental, emotional and physical tolls that physician burnout takes.

Preventing physician burnout part I touched on an increased in pessimism amongst physicians in the United States about the practice of medicine, as well as what's happening inside our brains as we near professional burnout.

Now it's time to explore ways to forestall this deadly mental, emotional and physical condition. I have three short tips for you today:

1. Do unto yourself as you are preaching to others

How often does the irony of your physician counsel to patients strike you? There you sit (or stand, if you're a doctor in a rush) advising patients on exercise, healthy eating and overall health improvement strategies, and your day consists largely of skipped meals, mostly non-cardiovascular activities and intense internal pressure.

What is it going to take for you to adhere to your own advice? A sacrosanct blocked-out appointment on your calendar that no one is permitted to violate? Getting out of bed 30 minutes earlier to meditate, take a brisk walk and/or eat breakfast? Opening up three or four slots in the schedule each day to accommodate those stress-inducing add-ons? Walking the flights of stairs in the hospital or your office building instead of taking the elevator?

Come on, friends… You know how to do this stuff!

2. Acquire the habit of mindfulness

Mindfulness is a trendy word at present, but instead of pooh-poohing it, let's explore what it means and looks like.

In this short video on the neuroscience behind mindfulness research, Oxford University Professor Mark Williams examines how certain practices restructure parts of the brain to damp down our responses to stress. Although he's addressing mindfulness as part of the treatment of depression, its use in preventing burnout incurs the same results.

This article on How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation by Karen Kissel Wegela, PhD, provides concrete steps to beginning your mindfulness practice.

Read more.