Introduction and WelcomeIn this episode I talk a little bit about my life and burnout journey. I review the current state of medicine and why you should care. I question the belief that our goal should be 100% happiness all the time. I suggest that it may be better to view events in our life with curiosity. I review how the medical system can makes us feel trapped and like we don't have any choices. I explain how our human brain can sometimes hold us back.
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Show Notes and Time Stamps
- (00:59) My burnout story.
- (02:50 The current state of medicine.
- (04:53) Why being happy all the time may not be the goal.
- (06:00) Learning to view our life with curiosity.
- (06:30) Remembering we have choices.
- (07:10) Why our human brain sometimes holds us back.
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Welcome to the Beat Physician Burnout podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Deanna Larson, Internal Medicine, hospitalist, and physician burnout life coach. I want this podcast to be your Burnout Bible, with topics to include anything and everything related to burnout. If you need to learn about burnout, prevent it or overcome it, this is the place for you. I want to give a disclaimer that the information and opinions shared here are for information and educational purposes only and do not serve as medical or professional advice. They do not represent any medical or professional institution or organization. If you are truly ready to take control of your life and put these tools into action, I am here to help. I have a free consultation call for any physician who is looking into coaching. Please sign up for a free consult at the link below.
You are listening to my Introduction episode of the Beat Physician Burnout podcast. I'm so glad you found this podcast. I'm imagining you with your earbuds in and on a nice walk outside in the sunshine. Since this is our very first episode, I want to tell you a bit about me. I'm a daughter, mother, doctor, and life coach. I have lived, trained, and worked my entire career in Omaha, Nebraska. When my first life coach asked me what I was looking for, I remember telling him that I was doing everything that I should be doing in my life. I was working full-time as a physician, volunteering, and being the brownie leader at my daughter's school. I owned a doctor-sized house with a pool and hosted events with my daughter's friends and parents. But every time I saw myself in pictures, I looked miserable. I was overwhelmed trying to do everything by myself.
I did all the things I felt I should do as a good mom and a role model, but I decided I no longer wanted to live life just going through the motions. I wanted to do it with ease and grace. I needed to stop myself. I mean, telling myself I should be doing this, or I should be doing that. And instead, I picked things that I truly enjoyed. I quit a lot of committees and a lot of volunteer work. I've spent the last five years learning and studying physician burnout. The statistics are awful. And we all know, COVID-19 didn't start the problem, but it did increase it. More importantly, it brought burnout more into the mainstream focus. The pandemic made it okay for us to talk about burnout. I care deeply about our profession, the current state of medicine, and the next generation of physicians who will follow in our footsteps.
We all had an idea of our lives. So, when we decided to go to medical school, very rarely did we get the dream. Our reality now is that medicine has become a business. Studies show that approximately 25% of my day as a hospitalist is spent on actual patient care. The rest is consumed by documenting in the EHR, my inbox, peer reviews, et cetera. I talk to physicians every day, trying to find a way to be happier by going part-time, trying administration, retiring, or leaving medicine altogether.
Why do you care? Why do you want to make this podcast one more thing to do. I'm going to teach you some information about burnout, but I'm sure you're aware that it can affect every part of your life and we bring it home. We bring it into our families. But on the flip side, when we learn these coaching tools and methods to improve our work life, they also overlap and improve every other part of your life.
Since I learned coaching, I'm a better doctor and a better mother and friend. I feel there's nowhere that this information has not improved my life. And on a significant scale, we're all dealing with the same stressors. Every specialty, every generation, both men and women. We're going to be asking some tough questions because the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves. The day I decided to go inside, look at my thoughts, manage my thoughts, was the first day I started seeing results. I think as physicians, we are constantly learning. There are so many different medical journals and new treatments in our field of practice. In this podcast, I want to include tools and strategies to help us figure out the next best version of ourselves. I'm going to help you realize we need to take better care of ourselves before we can take better care of our patients.
There are some topics we're going to cover that may seem counterintuitive. Maybe trying to be happy all the time is not what our goal should be. Perhaps it's better to accept the whole range of human emotions. We need to know, for sure, that the beautiful, perfect pictures we see on everybody else's social media feeds are not the real story. We're all just trying to do our best. Sometimes one of the simplest yet hardest things is to accept ourselves exactly where we are. This is exactly where you're supposed to be at this place in time. We need to learn to meet ourselves exactly where we are. We can learn to be more present in the moment, instead of spending time rushing around doing more activities or letting our brains spin and distract us from the things that we should be doing. If we can learn to view events in our life with curiosity, just like we learned from lab experiments, it will be easier to find the lessons and the meaning from them.
Think of everything in life like a lab experiment. If you get the results you wanted, wonderful. If not, you've learned something. Everything does happen for a reason. Everything can lead to growth. Let's look at it with curiosity and not from the viewpoint of failure. There are so many things in the medical system that we, as individual physicians, are probably never going to be able to change. This is a reality. Sometimes acceptance of this reality can bring us the most peace. We can still be the co-creators of our results. We have choices. We have power, and we have options. I'm here to teach you what I've learned and combined from multiple different courses and instructors and how to use what I feel are the best tools to take back control of your life and your career. In the following episodes, we will spend time deep-diving into our thoughts and limiting beliefs that determine everything in our lives.
Coaching and thought work will put you back in control of your life. So many physicians feel trapped due to financial constraints and massive student loan debt. I will show you the secret to practicing medicine on your terms and getting financial freedom.
We're going to learn a lot about our human brains. We all have a human brain. Our brain is wired for survival, and it's here to keep us safe. But sometimes, for those reasons, it holds us back. Sometimes it tells us thoughts that are just not true. The way we trained our brains through medical school was hugely successful for us to achieve that goal. But some of these strategies and beliefs are no longer useful. And in some cases, hold us back.
I want to give you valuable podcasts with tips that you can start to use right away. I know that you're busy. So I really plan on keeping these episodes short and sweet. You'll be able to listen on your commute to work, while exercising, or while loading the dishwasher.
So how does burnout take the smartest, hardest working people on the planet and slowly drag them to their knees?
Since burnout is in the name of my podcast, I thought we should define it so that we all are talking about the same thing. The most common scale is called the maslach burnout inventory, MBI, and that's the study that I'm going to explain to you. Now, there are three main parts to the Maslach burnout inventory. Emotional exhaustion is the first one. This is pretty easy to understand. This is your physical energy account, pretty straightforward, exhaustion, fatigue, feeling tired. I want you to picture the Energizer Bunny, the one that marches and beats its drum. And then, all of a sudden, the battery stops. People will sometimes use this as an analogy and say, I just need to recharge my batteries. But if you look at that bunny, it stops cold when its batteries are out. Have you ever stopped working before everything was completed? No, of course not we keep going and going. Even when our batteries are dead, we go into energy debt. Our training in medical school and residency made us believe it is even a sign of strength. But unfortunately, when we keep working, no matter what, that leads us to burnout. So think about burnout as your bank account. When you have no money in your bank account, it goes into overdraft status, but the bank doesn't close. That's basically what we do when we keep working. Even when we're out of energy in our batteries, we continue to go and we go into debt. You know what happens when you get overdrawn, they continue to pay, but they charge us fees and interest. And so you actually just get deeper and deeper into exhaustion. And so we actually spiraled down faster. When you get this low in your bank account, it doesn't close. Remember, it just turns you into the red. You keep going farther and faster.
The next thing I want to talk about is depersonalization, this is the second criteria of burnout. This is what I call our emotional account, and I refer to this as cynicism. This is when we actually start to become so sarcastic and cynical against our patients. Some people refer to this as bad-venting. Now everyone is going to vent and complain and laugh.
And sometimes, it is good to let off steam, but it can be hurtful when it gets to a certain point, and it is all you're doing all day long. This usually happens when we have nothing left to give. It is hard to give to someone when your own energy accounts are so low.
The third burnout criteria burnout is personal accomplishment. This is what I call our spiritual energy account, not spiritual, meaning religious, but spirit in the way of why we went into medicine in the first place. Most of us wanted to help people, and we thought we could make lives better and make a difference. When people are low in this energy account, they have a lot of doubt. They think "Am I even making a difference?" They've lost connection and purpose and meaning in their work. And I personally think this is one of the hardest ones for us to get back.
So a lot of people will say "How do I know if I'm at risk for burnout?" And the one thing I want to say is that we're an awful judge of our own burnout. The Maslach burnout inventory is available, and I'm going to put a link for you to be able to do this free it's on my website. And I really think it is important because we are not good judges of our burnout. You know, like how everyone thinks they have a good sense of humor and everyone thinks they're a good driver. Well, obviously, that's not possible. So we are all not good at judging what our burnout is. It's really worth looking on the scale.
In a normal day or week, we do expend different energy from our different accounts. Some days when we're on call, we probably use more energy. We have a late add admit or have a conflict with a patient. These are all different things that take away from your energy accounts. But initially, you're able to recharge by the time you get back to work. What happens with burnout is when you are no longer able to recharge and the symptoms continue, you become so cynical and exhausted that you're not able to recover. You start dreading going to work. And then you feel like you don't know how much longer you can do this. So in upcoming topics, I would like to include things such as: how to deal with overwhelm, the neuroscience of our brain, how our thoughts and feelings create our results, self-confidence, perfectionism working with a narcissist boss. I'm sure we all have ideas about that one. And I have so many more. When I started to write my topics list, I already have 39, so I'm going to get to work.
Until next time, live with ease and grace.