So there I was — in deep denial. Maybe you’ve been there: Ignoring the symptoms. Hoping and praying that it would just “go away.” A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And as a doctor, I like to think I can Google with the best of them. So when I had a persistent scary symptom (full disclosure: it was bloody discharge from my left breast. Not subtle. Not intermittent. Not OK, even ...

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I was in the break room at the hospital scarfing down a power bar between three-hour cases. The truth is, I was multi-tasking: eating, writing on a chart, and checking my email on my phone. I had received an email from a businesswoman, whom I have known for a few years. She wanted to know if I wanted to join her for lunch next week. I had to laugh out loud. The rest ...

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It makes me crazy when I hear things like, “Doctors are to blame for burnout. They need to just be tougher.” Are people really serious? This is like comparing us to people who are eating super-sized fast food meals daily, while complaining about their jeans being too tight. Not the same. Some will say that burnout is a given and just goes with the territory. Many debate whether this is something that needs to ...

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If you have a life where you never, ever say yes when you mean no, then you can stop reading right now. But I guess that you’re a lot like me. Now and then, you get caught off guard. And before you know it, you’re staying late to see that emergency patient. Bringing cupcakes for the second-grade class. Volunteering for the coffee meet-and-greet at church next Sunday. What’s up with that? We’re smart. ...

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Picture this: You’re in the operating room, performing a challenging procedure. (If you’re not a doctor, roll with me here and play along. You’ll get it soon.) You’re feeling pretty good about how the surgery is going. You’re grateful that your usual team is with you, because that always makes you feel more confident. Then something happens … Right at the most critical part of the procedure, crisis ensues and the instrument you’re using ...

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At some point in our lives, and it probably happens more often than we’d like to admit, we fake it. Let’s get real, shall we friends? Think about it. Your mother is having heart surgery in a small town across the country. You are, frankly, worried sick. Do you tell anyone in the operating room, especially your patient? What would you do? If you’re like me (OK, this was me recently), you fake it. You smile at your ...

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shutterstock_255266638 We’re not imagining it: We really are losing our connections to each other. It’s a huge problem. In fact, it’s life-threatening. A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed the Brigham Young University study that found that social isolation increases our risk of death by 32 percent. Duke University and the University of Arizona have been watching our connections go down the ...

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Have you ever been a patient? Yeah, me too. Many newly insured Americans will visit doctors’ offices this year. The average time you -- or anyone -- has with a primary care provider is 15 minutes. What’s a sick person to do? Happier patients make happier doctors. Here’s a helpful list that I’ve developed to help patient visits go smoother: 1. Pick three questions or concerns that you have for your doctor and write ...

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When I was in training, the rule was: See one, do one, teach one. That was the rule for everything. It could be starting an arterial line, suturing a wound, dictating an operative report. No doubt, that rule is still in play. But now, the playing field has changed. Could you be sending out the wrong message? Demonstrating a poor way to proceed? Before you say “No way!” -- Think about this: Have you ever ...

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shutterstock_238626826 Recently I was asked to talk to a special group: the doctors and staff who teach new doctors. I reached out to my community and the suggestions that came pouring in of how to improve physician burnout were amazing. What I learned is that a key element of guiding young doctors and avoiding burnout is to stop for a minute. Can you believe ...

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shutterstock_134876816 You’ve probably heard that we remember negative things we’re told ten times longer than positive things. What’s the implication for those of us in the medical field? Does all that negativity create more burned out doctors? If you’re at all like me, those negative things started in your training. Did you feel tortured during grand rounds or oral board exams? Yeah. Me, too. And ...

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shutterstock_118623196 I’ve been a doctor for more than 20 years, and I hate to break it to you, but it’s time I came clean: We lie. Doctors lie. Not always. Not necessarily on purpose. But we do. Sometimes the lies are to our patients. Sometimes, the lies are to our families. And sometimes the lies are to ourselves. But, nonetheless, we lie. A lot. ...

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shutterstock_245121460 A while ago, I wrote about “The secret lives of doctors.” The post must have struck a nerve because it went viral, maybe because it helped patients to realize that doctors are human. We doctors can’t really know how human we are until we become a patient. That happened to me recently. And it wasn’t pretty. You need to know the ...

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Those of us in health care face tough decisions every day. Should we spend less time with patient A so we can have more time to tell patient B about a bad pathology report? Should we work through lunch to see a few more patients but risk burning out our office staff at a time when morale is at an all-time low? Should we skip our child’s piano recital to attend that ...

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How many times do we start out our day with the best of intentions? It’s probably most days, if you’re at all like me. Even when we’re going through a spell of negativity, we all try to pull it together for the sake of our patients, our staff, our families. A couple weeks ago, I was tempted to throw in the towel. It was one of those days when the last straw was ...

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As with the beginning of each new year, the word “improved” gets bandied about: improved patient care, improved patient satisfaction, improved efficiency. Physicians are constantly being told to push past their burnout and embrace multitasking for the sake of improved health care delivery. Patients are told to “hurry up and wait” as they line up for health care like lemmings on the top of a cliff. In a world in which ...

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shutterstock_175876592 It came out of nowhere. One of those life lessons that I didn’t know I needed to learn. Until I did. There I was, at a weekend business retreat, hobnobbing with a group of women executives. Feeling only slightly out of my element. Trying to blend in. There was a break in the meeting. And what happened next made me rethink how ...

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Physician burnout -- and burnout in general -- is at an all-time high. From this Wall Street Journal article by Dr. Sandeep Jauhar to a recent TEDx talk by Dr. Romila Mushtaq, the angst is palpable. Sadly, as noted in this piece in the New York Times, the suicide rates of physicians and doctors-in-training increase every year. The insurance companies’ complications, government involvement, and economic downturn have all added fuel to this fire of discontent. ...

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shutterstock_114648127 As physician burnout becomes more widespread, it’s time to think about the future. Do you have people asking you if you would be a doctor again? Not a week goes by without me being asked by either a medical student or a practicing physician: Do you recommend medicine to others? Or is physician burnout too rampant, too overwhelming, too all-consuming? That’s one of those super ...

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There’s a great song by Don McLean called "American Pie.” The chorus talks about “the day the music died.” I thought about that song in my hospital a couple years ago, when the music died there, too. I’ve noticed that our physician burnout and nurse frustration have increased in the years since the music died. Could it be a coincidence? McLean’s song was about a plane crash in 1959 that claimed ...

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