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Provider Edition: Can We Cure Burnout?

November 3, 2021

Friends and Colleagues,

If you read last week’s newsletter, you know that burnout is a critical theme to address in primary care. And yet, it’s quite complicated and multi-layered as well. If you haven’t read it, you can do so here.

You may be asking yourself, “If I’ve identified that I’m burned out and overwhelmed, now what? What can I do? Is there even hope? Or, do I just put my head down and keep forging on with no end in sight?” Please don’t do that – do not continue to forge ahead in isolation. I want to offer a few key insights into what addresses burnout and what we can begin to do.

First, know that it’s not entirely on you. Too many well-intentioned consultants, therapists and coaches suggest that the key to burnout is self-care. While addressing self-care is important, it’s only ONE PART of addressing burnout. In fact, I’ve consulted with hundreds of health care professionals who are doing ALL.OF.THE.RIGHT.THINGS when it comes to self-care – eating, sleeping and exercising – and they’re still overwhelmed and burned out. No amount of healthy eating can address things like organizational stress or marginalization, poor work environments or an ongoing pandemic. Recognizing that addressing burnout is bigger than you represents a critical step.

Second, you have to name it – the burn out. The overwhelm. The feeling of hopelessness and resignation. That pit in your stomach that realizes you are lacking purpose or passion in your practice. I know it seems terrifying, right? Naming the overwhelm? But I’ve actually never seen a time where acknowledging hurt made it worse in the long-term. It’s painful, sure. And it can be scary. You might worry you’re all alone and that no one else can relate. Or worse, that others will judge you as incompetent. But, only if we name it can we begin to address the chronic fatigue and burden we’re experiencing.

Finally, we need to embrace a bit of vulnerability. We need to find a person (or many people). Next week, we’ll discuss finding your pacesetter. If you’re not sure what that is, stay tuned. But in the meantime, I want you to try something. Acknowledge overwhelm to one other person – maybe it’s a colleague, your partner, your life coach, a friend, or your dog. Find the courage to say, “I’m not sure how long I can go on like this…” Or, recognize overwhelm or fatigue in a friend or colleague and say, “I see you.” Then watch. Watch what happens when we say it out loud.

Perfection is not what people need from us. They need to know we’re entirely human. Humanness builds connection. It heals loneliness and isolation. Connection builds a bridge to others that says, “I’m with you, you’re not alone in this.” 

The only way to begin to “cure” burnout is to recognize 1. It’s not entirely on you. 2. You must name it. 3. Embrace being vulnerable for a bit with one other person – for yourself and for the other person.

Join me next week as we talk about how to continue to build those bridges of connection by recognizing your pacesetter.

Until then, hopefully I’ll see you in The Provider Lounge – A Community Build Resilience. It’s a special group just for providers that meets the first Thursday of every month at 12:30 PST via zoom. Here’s the link to join us. And just a week after the Provider Lounge meets, I’m hosting a FREE workshop on burnouthere’s the link for you to grab a friend and join us!

With compassion for all you do,

Dr. Amy

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