Physicians have one of the highest rates of suicide of any profession: nearly twice the rate of the general population. 400 physicians commit suicide each year in the United States. The stress of being a doctor is constant and unrelenting. The majority of us are perfectionists with a strong work ethic: your classic Type A personality. Maybe we set ourselves up for failure and then cannot accept when it inevitably ...

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1. Quit taking care of yourself. There is no upper limit to the needs of patients. There is always more medicine to learn and do. Add to this the needs of children, aging parents and a partner -- your time for yourself quickly becomes zero. Want to get burned out quickly? Quit exercising. Eat on the run. Have disrupted sleep. Don’t set professional boundaries. Miss enough first steps, parent’s medical ...

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Evidence-based medicine is at the heart of what we physicians do. It is the basis for professional decision-making, and a focus of most journal articles we read. Using solid evidence to practice good medicine has been a foundation of clinical practice for decades. There are consequences for failing to follow evidence-based guidelines. If patient harm results from straying from a more loosely defined “standard of care,” which tends to be evidence-based, ...

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Today’s restless society has taken its toll on modern medicine. Among all the strategies for protocol optimization and health insurance improvements, doctors get to spend less and less time actually talking to their patients. Each check-up needs to be performed in a certain amount of time, and every procedure needs to be completed as quickly as possible so that hospitals are efficient and profitable. While this makes perfect financial sense, it ...

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I am about to place my plate in the sink, until I see a single pea left on my plate. I recall a recent article in National Geographic that stated that one-third of all the food we produce is wasted. I have a Zen moment, and think of the journey the pea made to reach my plate. A farmer in California sowed the seeds six months earlier. A farm worker harvested ...

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If you are a doctor, everywhere you hear or read about all that is wrong in medicine.  Please do not get me wrong, the medical profession is under assault.  Change is occurring all around us, and much of it has the potential to be disastrous to not only us and our families, but more importantly to our patients.  For many of us in the profession, we feel helpless.  We feel ...

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Doctors have an interesting problem. They have an ingrained professional obsessive-compulsive habit; they fixate on the care of individual patients and on the science of healing. This is an admirable trait; it results in high-quality care. However, when physicians need to change their attention from healer to leader, from medicine to the business of medicine, from health care to the health care system, they falter. Stuck in silos, they fail to ...

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Despite all the challenges that we, and every other nation, faces with their health care systems, it’s worth remembering that in the broader picture we really have progressed in leaps and bounds over the last several decades. How easy is it to forget that only 100 years ago the average life expectancy was in the 20s to 40s in most parts of the world (just as it was for nearly ...

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"One of the most prominent definitions describes burnout 'as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity.'" - Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996 In 1974, the year I started medical school back in Sweden, the German-born American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger published a journal article titled “Staff Burnout." In it, he wrote about the physical and emotional symptoms of ...

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As a primary care physician at one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers I’m still hanging on. Over my 32 years, I’ve seen how my ability to interact with patients has been diminished by an ever-encroaching health care system. There’s a clock keeping track of how much time a patient’s chart is open. I have less than 15 minutes on average to assess my patient’s symptoms and discuss treatment options, ...

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