Medical professionals have consistently demonstrated high levels of burnout and job dissatisfaction in recent times. This has become a significant concern for the health care sector and the general population since it affects the quality of health care services provided to patients. The stigma surrounding burnout and increasing awareness has made it easier to discuss openly among medical communities. The problem seems rooted in how doctors view themselves as medical professionals and the lack of other skills or interests outside the medical profession. This article explores how doctors can overcome burnout and the feeling of being stuck in their careers by developing other skills and interests outside medicine.
Throughout my career journey, I once experienced a debilitating burnout that consumed me entirely. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how much my persistence and stubbornness contributed to it. My hardworking ethic had become my identity, and it was a piece of me that I was proud of. However, it had turned into a double-edged sword that forced me to overlook its damaging effects on my mental and emotional health. Thankfully, connecting with my creative self and pursuing my dormant interests allowed me to begin the healing process. I had to stop and stop putting all my working time into practicing clinical medicine.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to demanding work conditions. It is a common and significant problem among medical professionals, and it has become a widely recognized issue that affects the quality of health care services they provide. Studies show that burnout causes poor patient care, medical errors, reduced job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and decreased productivity.
According to a national survey by the American Medical Association (AMA), over 40 percent of doctors report experiencing at least one symptom of burnout. The study identified several factors contributing to burnout among medical professionals, including long working hours, excessive workload, emotional demands, administrative tasks, and inadequate support systems. However, some researchers argue that the lack of autonomy causes burnout, the repetitive nature of their work, and the inability to engage in other interests outside the medical profession. Physicians and other care providers need to have interests outside their medical careers.
The importance of developing other skills and interests outside medicine
Doctors spend years of rigorous training and education to provide medical services to patients. However, the medical profession is not an easy one. The workload, emotional demands, and administrative tasks can affect their mental and physical well-being. One of the ways doctors can overcome burnout and the feeling of being stuck in their careers is to develop other skills and interests outside medicine.
Improved self-care. Doctors who engage in other interests and activities outside the medical profession find it easier to prioritize their mental and physical well-being. They have a better work-life balance, improved relationships, and a better sense of self. This improved self-care helps doctors prevent burnout, improve their sleep quality and reduce stress.
Improved communication with patients. Developing other skills, like photography or playing music, has been found to help doctors enhance communication and build relationships with their patients. This is because hobbies enable doctors to view patients as more than just their medical conditions. Additionally, doctors with an artistic or creative hobby have been found to have more empathy, which comes with connecting with patients, which is essential in building trust.
Find satisfaction outside the medical profession. Developing other skills and interests outside medicine allows doctors to find fulfillment in other areas of life. Some find creative or artistic ventures, such as writing, painting, or playing music, to be a satisfying way to express themselves. Others may enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking or skiing, which allows them to connect with nature. Whatever the interests outside medicine, they provide opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth.
Renewed passion for medicine. Engaging in other interests can reignite the passion for medicine. Medical professionals who are tired of the repetitive nature of their work or frustrated with the health care system can find novelty in other interests, which can rekindle their interest in the medical profession. Hobbies also promote creativity, which can be beneficial in finding new solutions to health care problems. I found this to be particularly true in my life. When I nurtured my interest outside clinical medicine, I renewed my interest in practicing medicine.
Promotion of teamwork and collaboration. Doctors are part of a larger team that includes nurses, physicians, and other medical professionals. By learning from others’ skills and interests, doctors can contribute to team-building, effective collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge. These skills and abilities can be leveraged to enhance their decision-making roles and broaden their approach to solving health care problems.
Increased resilience. Engaging in other skills and interests outside medicine has built resilience among doctors. Resilience is the ability to adapt and cope with challenges and difficult situations. Developing and maintaining other interests can help doctors work and excel in high-stress situations, which are frequently present in the medical profession.
Burnout is a significant problem for medical professionals, affecting the provision of health care services. The medical profession can be overwhelming and stressful, which can cause burnout and the feeling of being stuck in their careers. Developing other skills and interests outside medicine can be a valuable strategy to combat burnout and improve doctors’ well-being. Doctors who engage in other interests have improved self-care and enhanced communication in their relationships. Therefore, it is essential not to put all your eggs, whether interest or income streams, in one basket. Developing other interests can help doctors find satisfaction, reignite their passion for medicine, promote teamwork and collaboration, and increase resilience. Ultimately, engaging in interests outside medicine can benefit physicians and the health care system as a whole.
Tomi Mitchell, a family physician and founder of Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies, is not only a distinguished international keynote speaker but also a passionate advocate for mental health and physician’s well-being, hosting her podcast, The Mental Health & Wellness Show. With over a decade of experience in presenting, public speaking, and training, she excels in creating meaningful connections with her audience. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn and book a discovery call.