Combating burnout
August 13, 2023
The power of purpose to combat burnout in medicine

In the high-stress, high-demand world of medicine, burnout looms large over many healthcare professionals. The long hours, emotional toll, and systemic challenges can often leave doctors feeling drained, disillusioned, and disconnected from their initial reasons for joining the profession. However, rekindling and staying connected to one's 'why' or purpose can be a potent antidote to this burnout, reigniting passion and resilience in the face of adversity.

Dr Ash Bowden stands as a compelling testament to this principle. With an unwavering commitment to his mission and a clear understanding of his purpose, Dr Bowden not only combats burnout in his own career but also inspires countless others to rediscover their motivation in the challenging world of medicine and outside it.

Dr Ash Bowden and connecting to purpose

In the face of staggering statistics, such as the daily average of 440 Australians diagnosed with cancer in 20221, Dr Ash Bowden, popularly known as "Doctor Do More," chose to walk a path driven by purpose. Rather than succumbing to the weight of these numbers, Dr Bowden found motivation in them, turning statistics into steps – quite literally.

His initiative, #MoveAgainstCancer, is not just a mere step challenge. It embodies his purpose: to motivate Australians to take proactive control over their health, one step at a time, and reduce the risk of diseases like cancer. By aligning his profession with this purpose, Dr Bowden has found a way to revitalise his passion for medicine and impact public health positively.

"Moving more has unbelievable benefits on your health – reduced risk of cancers, reduced risk of cardiorespiratory disease, improved cognition and more. Importantly, it has a huge impact on our mental health, something we all need right now," explained Ash.

The "why" of physical activity

Research consistently shows the extensive benefits of physical activity, including its capacity to reduce the risk of up to 13 types of cancer23. Yet, in a world grappling with pandemics and financial instabilities, many view exercise as a dispensable luxury. Here again, Dr Bowden's purpose-driven approach aims to combat this. He believes in the therapeutic power of movement, not just for the body but also for the mind, especially during trying times.

"Staying active, especially outdoors, is pivotal. It's our buffer against mental health struggles and propels us towards positivity," he remarked, intertwining the idea of physical well-being with mental resilience, both crucial for doctors to prevent burnout.

Finding a passion outside of medicine

Engaging in passions outside of medicine offers a therapeutic diversion, acting as a mental balm against the rigors of the profession. These pursuits, whether they're hobbies, sports, or artistic endeavors, provide a stark contrast to the clinical environment, facilitating mental rejuvenation. They stimulate different parts of the brain, promote work-life balance, and instill a sense of purpose beyond the confines of a hospital. By stepping away and immersing in diverse activities, doctors can rekindle their inner spirit, reconnect with their personal identities, and return to their medical roles with renewed energy, perspective, and resilience against burnout.

#MoveAgainstCancer: more than just steps

Now in its fourth year, #MoveAgainstCancer has transcended its initial goal. It has become a movement, raising over $165,000 and engaging more than 2,000 participants. Dr. Bowden's purpose is evident in every step taken and every dollar raised. The funds directly benefit the Cancer Council, ensuring that those diagnosed with cancer find support in their battle.

Dr Bowden's journey underscores a pivotal lesson: finding and connecting to one's purpose can rejuvenate one's passion, even in the most demanding professions. As he aptly puts it, "The challenge is simple and achievable. "Want to get active? Just start with a walk." These words serve as a reminder that sometimes, the solution to complex problems, like burnout, can begin with a simple step, especially when it's taken with purpose.

Article by
Dr Ash Bowen

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