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Career 'Dos' and 'Don'ts' to Avoid Burnout


The "danger zone" for physician burnout looms when work begins to become overwhelming, menial, tedious, exhausting, boring and/or highly supervised. I look at the issue of career burnout, and offer three essential "dos" and "don'ts" to help you find happiness on the job.

The Entrepreneurial MD's November newsletter tackles the issue of physician burnout, and finding happiness at work. Here's an extract from the full article:

As many of you know by now, I have long been fascinated by the subject of happiness -- what it is, how we find it, how we create it -- and especially happiness at work. So my eye is always caught by anecdotes and information in which there is an absence of happiness, or a secret to finding it.

I was recently alerted to a new study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, titled "Surgeon Distress as Calibrated by Hours Worked and Nights on Call."

It came to this not surprising conclusion:

"Number of hours worked and nights on call per week appear to have a substantial impact on surgeons, both professionally and personally. These factors are strongly related to burnout, depression, career satisfaction, and work and home conflicts."

As I know many of you will attest, the “danger zone” for physicians looms when work begins to become overwhelming, menial, tedious, exhausting, boring and/or highly supervised. (Here is HealthLeaders Media interview with one of the authors, and take on the topic, Surgeons: Take a Break.)

Likewise, I was pointed in a different direction to an article written by a fellow coach Bonnie Leonard, "The 3 Rs of Reinvention." What this article reminds me is that reinvention (including the physician career kind) is not only about doing, it's also very much about being. Leonard infuses her idea of reinvention with the three “Rs”: relaxation, restoration and reflection. Quite right — it's how we nurture our being that will impact the success of our doing.

I also draw your attention to is a series of "Creative and Personal Mastery" emails I've been receiving from Professor Srikumar Rao, with little video clips that are based on his book, "Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful -- No Matter What." Here is just one example.

Some concluding thoughts on finding happiness on the job:

Three “Dos”:

• Do feel your passion, or as Joseph Campbell says, "follow your bliss."

• Do reinvent yourself through periodic relaxation, restoration and reflection.

• Do develop your "personal operating plan," complete with your vision, sense of purpose, and clearly understood core values.

Three “Don'ts”:

• Don't ignore the warning signs of impending burnout.

• Don't expect someone else to make your pain or frustration go away -- it's on your shoulders to take action.

• Don't forget that life is short and regrets are to be avoided wherever possible.

Finally, one of the greatest gifts I've given myself recently was to read a book, written by Ray Bennett MD, called "The Underachiever"s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great."

Phew! What a relief it is to give myself permission to "underachieve."

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice