Combating burnout
July 7, 2022
Dr Mel McNiff on finding your passion outside of medicine

Dr Mel McNiff is one exceptional doctor. She describes herself as part Emergency Registrar and part feral adventurer. An outdoor sporting enthusiast, and expedition medic, Mel believes in living life to the fullest - that means doing things like taking on her first ever half-ironman triathlon at the same time as her medical exam!

But Mel's dedication to adventure hasn't prevented her from experiencing burnout.

When she posted on her Instagram about the the best career advice she ever got, and how it helped her combat burnout, the post got her fellow doctors commenting and showing support.

Medworld's mission is to provide a platform where doctors can share their experiences and learn from one another. With the problems that the health care industry is facing globally, we wanted to share Mel's blog post because we found the way that she opened up about her own situation both moving and inspirational, and we suspect it would be relatable to doctors all over the world.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? For me it was, “Find something outside of medicine to be passionate about”

Like many of us, my identity has been so tightly entwined with being a doctor my entire adult life.

Starting at 15, building an impeccable application to get into medical school. Work-experience. Straight A’s. Extra-curricular activities. Passing medical school exams whilst learning how to do research and quality improvement.

Being a good FY1. Being abused daily at work. Choosing a speciality. If you’re me, cycling through several specialties. Learning how to step up to registrar. Studying for the sleuth of primary exams. Courses. Conferences. Networking. Studying for fellowship exams.

Keeping up to date with changes in best practice. Eternal shift work. The emotional toll of dealing with death every day. Struggling with relationships and friendships because you have no emotional energy left to give.

And when you burn out? The overwhelming sense of failure.

Failure at something you’ve dedicated your entire life to.

Everything is so entwined it’s impossible to see where you as a doctor ends and you as a human starts.

I haven’t always got it right and have joked I’ve cried in hospital toilets around the world. If that’s you right now, I truly feel you.

You are not in this alone.

I now fiercely pursue my wild. I love going rouge, without any particular goal other than to see something beautiful. To come back covered in bruises, scratches, mud, snow with stories of how I narrowly escaped the wrath of a wild animal and have friends shake their head in disbelief.

To know I was something other than a doctor today. Whatever that may be for you, medicine has no right to take it.

Article by
Dr Mel McNiff

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