Here’s what I wish I had thought when in training and practice:
I wish I had questioned whether all that self-sacrifice was necessary, healthy, and a good long-term strategy.
Instead, I put my head down, pushed through each long day, skipped breaks, sleep, and exercise, and kept at it. Right up until the day my way of doing life and the chaos of our health care system ran headlong into this reality: I have a human body, brain, and psyche.
Not having a clue about what else to do or how to ask for help, I chose to leave medicine.
I landed on my feet as a freelance writer, for which I am eternally grateful. Yet that pivot away from clinical medicine, from the profession of healing that I worked so hard to enter, was a tragedy, because it wasn’t made from a place of empowerment and choice.
I now know what drives physician burnout: Reimbursement changes and other external factors, toxic organizational culture, ineffective leadership, inadequate communication, and other system issues. These need to change before we will have a truly functional, health-building health care system.
I now also know that each of us, as individuals, plays a role in what our daily experience feels like. And this is all about the mindset we carry into each day.
For example, I bought into the “other people come first always” mindset that led me to skip rest, exercise, and quality time with loved ones. Too often, I let my tendency to perfectionism run me to the ground. To avoid conflict, I steered away from setting needed boundaries and paid the price in overwork, fatigue, and resentment. And even after leaving practice, I kept using this well-honed mindset as the default way to navigate life. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
It turns out that the mindset that was pretty effective for getting through undergrad, med school, and training has an expiration date. It didn’t work so well long term because I am human.
If you find that your daily life pushes the boundaries of being human, just know that it doesn’t need to be this way. With insight and practice, I have replaced that mindset with one that’s more effective for a balanced, sustainable life. You can too.
If this resonates, give me a shout and let’s talk about how to create the life you’ve been longing for.