For most physicians, the work of medicine is a calling and a passion. But it doesn’t have to be the only calling. When signs of burnout strike, sometimes it might be necessary for physicians to pivot slightly away from medicine toward another hobby or act of creativity to regenerate the spirit.
“In a field like medicine, there are going to be parts of yourself that you lose along the way because it is such a demanding task,” says Alexandra Solomon, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, clinical assistant professor at Northwestern University and author of the book Loving Bravely.
She encourages physicians to put some energy into “refinding” those parts of the self through some sort of non-medical outlet, which can make for a “wiser, more thoughtful, more compassionate doctor.”
No matter how much of a calling medicine may be, she says “it can’t be the sum total. There have to be ways to turn away from the work, and it’s accessing a different part of the self.”
Adam Kendall, MD, MPH, with a specialty in hospice and palliative medicine physician at HealthCare Partners Medical Group in California knows this to be true. His work is tough on the emotions of a physician and can lead to burnout faster than in other specialties. Kendall, a violinist and piano player, has found music to be an important part of leading him back from burnout’s brink.
“I think a place of creative and artistic release is very helpful just in itself,” he says. But he’s especially interested in the way it “produces a gift to others.”
Kendall, whose wife died at the age of 35 in 2011 had grief on top of the demands of his profession to deal with. Even before her death, he had not been making as much time to practice music, one of his passions, so when he returned to it, he found it gratifying to play in public settings “that allow for exchange of people sharing their emotion and expressing a human effect on the community around them.”