Combating burnout
July 24, 2020
Tackling burnout in the medical profession

Dr Juviraj Arulanandarajah is a GP, blogger and advocate for doctor wellbeing. Juviraj completed his medical degree in Liverpool (UK) before moving to Australia in 2006. He worked in a few different areas (both medically and geographically) including Emergency in New South Wales and Queensland before settling down in Melbourne with his wife, young son and two dogs.

Like almost 50% of doctors, personal and professional stress took a toll on Dr Juviraj. He says it was his wife who first recognized the symptoms of burnout, (“It just took me a while to listen,” he adds). With help from friends, family and professionals, he got his life back on track and decided to share his journey and findings on blogs which discuss burnout and wellness in the medical profession.

Dr Juviraj’s blog is different because it’s from a personal viewpoint. He says he wants to share his experience of what happened, what worked (and what didn’t) and hopes that his personal journey will help and inspire others.

Remembering your 'why'

In conversation with Medworld’s Dr Sam Hazledine in 2018 (check out the podcast here), Dr Juviraj says that though doctors’ working hours are often blamed for stress, it’s not the whole picture.

“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,” he says.

Dr Juviraj points to separating work from what society expects from doctors as a key part of this. When we go to a party, we’re introduced as a doctor. We’re intrinsically linked to our careers; this is perpetuated by society, by ourselves and even by regulatory bodies – what we do outside of work can have an impact on our professional lives. But Dr Juviraj says it’s important to make a distinction. He says doctors need to start “recognizing that you are more than that, that you have all these other aspects to your life, your soul, your spirit, your family, your friends… all those things.”

Reconnecting with family and friends, and rekindling a passion for hobbies, particularly creative ones, is key to separating ‘you’ from ‘professional you’.

“And then once you start thinking ‘oh yes, there are other things I can do’, your life doesn't end when you are not a doctor, then you actually start to enjoy the medicine part of it a lot more,” says Dr Juviraj.

Your personal care plan

Dr Juviraj also tackled burnout by writing himself out a ‘wellness plan’, similar to the care plans GPs often write for their patients. He outlined the problems and the ways in which he was going to fix them. His plan included making changes to his work situation, to address what he was unhappy about. He addressed finances, because though doctors earn good money, it’s still one of the most common stressors in the industry. He also kept intellectual spirituality in mind – like practicing mindfulness, and making time for creativity or other interests.

“I think that's a great thing about doctors is that once we do recognise it we have great tools to fix it.

“We have great tools to actually make these changes, we have the intellectual capacity, we have the insight once we get there, but we can actually start making the changes a lot better than other people can.”

Listen to Dr Juviraj’s full conversation with Dr Sam Hazledine on tackling burnout in the medical profession here.

Article by
Dr Juviraj Arulanandarajah

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