Please stop using the word burnout. You’re not burned out. You’ve been abused. Let’s get the diagnosis right.
We enter medicine as inspired, intelligent, compassionate humanitarians. Soon we’re cynical and exhausted. How did all these totally amazing and high-functioning people get screwed up so fast? ATTENTION medical students and doctors: It’s NOT your fault.
“Burnout” is physical and mental collapse caused by overwork.
So why blame the victims?
Victim blaming and shaming, bullying and hazing, all lead to increased suicides.
The fact is medical students and physicians are collapsing because they are suffering from acute on chronic abuse. At some medical schools, 100% of students report abuse. Do you think this gets better? Abused medical students become abused doctors who may one day abuse patients. Human rights abuses are commonplace in our hospitals, clinics, and medical schools. This doctor worked 7 days in a row with almost no sleep!
Think abuse is too strong? Read the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Countries get in big trouble for this sort of behavior. So why is it okay for our health care institutions to perpetrate human rights abuses on their own students and employees? It’s not.
Think the doctor below is burned out? Nope. She has been ABUSED!!
Docs, stop playing nice. You are being abused.
Only you can stop this crap.
How do you know if you’re being abused at work? 1) You don’t get lunch or bathroom breaks. 2) You are forced to work multiple-day shifts. 3) You are not allowed to sleep. 4) You are forced to see unsafe numbers of patients. 5) You can never seem to find “work-life balance.” 6) You are threatened verbally, financially—even physically. 7) You are bullied. 8) And if you ask for help, you’re called a slacker or worse.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.
YOU ARE A VICTIM OF ABUSE.
So what should you do? Sign up for a resiliency training? Meditate? Take deep breaths? Your goal should NOT be to cope with abuse. Your goal should be to STOP it.
Burnout blames the victim, not the perpetrator. It implies that YOU are to blame, not the system, not the perpetrators of the mistreatment.
To treat burnout, health care institutions may offer resiliency classes to train doctors to prioritize self-care and manage their emotions. WARNING: You can not meditate your way out of abuse. Taking deep breaths will not end your abuse.
WHAT YOU MUST DO: If you are being abused, YOU MUST LEAVE YOUR ABUSER. I know it’s scary. You are not alone. Need help with your escape? I’ll help you. Contact me.
Remember: YOU were born to be a healer, not a victim.
Please break the cycle of health care abuse that leads to suicide among doctors and poor care for patients.
Pamela Wible, M.D., founded the Ideal Medical Care Movement. She helps doctors open their ideal clinics through her popular teleseminars & retreats. When not caring for patients, she devotes her life to eradicating health care abuse. Videos by TEDMED and GeVe.