We’ve all heard the maxim, but is change really as good as a rest?
There’s alarming levels of burnout in the medical profession – some researchers put it as high as 87%. Though technically speaking burnout does not have a medically distinct definition, it’s often described as feelings of exhaustion, depersonalisation and inefficiency, caused by extreme stress.
Burnout can take its toll on you, your family and your patients.
Symptoms can vary, but some of the common signs include:
- Feeling unrecognised for your work
- Having low energy
- Having little or no interest in work or social interactions
- Dreading being at work
- Feelings of emptiness
- Having trouble sleeping
Taking a break
When you’re stressed at work, a holiday or time away from your job can help you feel relaxed and refreshed. It can also give you an opportunity to prioritise self-care and shift your perspective – two important tools in tackling burnout.
In an interview with MedRecruit founder Dr Sam Hazledine, doctor and wellness blogger Dr Juviraj Arulanandarajah shared some of his tips for recovering from burnout. He said that when he was suffering from burnout, taking a break helped him to put things back into perspective; “When you are out in the storm it’s hard to see light beyond the clouds, you can’t see the blue above all the clouds around you.”
Take time to restore your energy and re-evaluate your priorities. It’s not just hectic schedules and long working hours that lead to burnout. Forgetting why you chose to become a doctor can lead to disillusionment with the profession.
“There wasn’t just the hours that I was working, it was how I was looking at that job and why I was working; I was working because I was supposed to work, I had to work, I had to pay the bills. And once you start changing that and then you start looking at the other things in your life and start appreciating it – it’s mindfulness in a way,” Dr Juviraj.
Another good tip is to examine how much self-worth you attach to being a doctor. After years of study and intensive training, it’s easy to forget that you’re more than a doctor. You’re a whole human being with a life and interests outside of the medical profession. Revisiting old hobbies, or starting a new one can be a good way to remind yourself that you’re more than your job. Make sure you’re setting work-life boundaries and are making time for the things (and people) you love outside of work.
Making a change
Sometimes, taking a break isn’t enough. If you’re regularly making time for family and hobbies outside of work or have recently returned from a break and you’re still experiencing burnout, it might be time for a change.
Fear of change is natural. There’s safety in familiar faces and the predictability of a routine. But if you’ve spent some time in a situation or a job role that you feel you can’t change – and it’s making you miserable – wading into the unknown could be a better option.
Shifting your perspective and reducing your exposure to stressors are two more important steps in reducing or avoiding burnout. Look at activities and relationships which trigger unhealthy stress and assess how you can change these. For example, request a shift or department change so that you’re working in a team or environment you enjoy; or make a personal rule to only work a limited amount of overtime.
If you want to change your job entirely, consider working with an agency like MedRecruit. This can reduce the stress of the unknown as you’ll be partnered with a Solutions Specialist (SS) dedicated to finding you a new role. MedRecruit has good relationships with hospitals and clinics across New Zealand and Australia so they can help you search for a new job that matches your aspirations, preferences and experience.
For those who still aren’t sure what sort of role they’d like – or even where they’d like to work – locuming is a fantastic option. We’ve worked with lots of doctors who’ve taken a year out to work in different roles and locations across Australasia. Read about some of the doctors who have done this on our blog.
Is change as good as a rest? It all depends on your situation. Taking time to evaluate your goals and aspirations and how these align with your current situation is a good first step. You can find more tools for tackling burnout here.