Welcome to the Burns Ward

Disclaimer: If the mundane first paragraph of this blog lures you into such a sound sleep/coma that you choke on your secretions, that is natural selection and Doctorness.com will bear no responsibility for your loss.

According to a study among clinicians in India, about 45% of the respondents scored high on emotional exhaustion. Meanwhile, 66% suffer from depersonalization & a lack of empathy for patients. The study showed that 87% of doctors scored low on “personal accomplishments”, whereas 63% scored moderately on satisfaction levels with their medical practice. Most doctors surveyed were suffering from significant burnout. Conclusion: You must eat healthier, sleep better, work less, exercise more, find your emotional centre and spend more time at home and with your family. If you weren’t burnt out before reading this, I am certain that this mind-numbing biochemistry-esque article, of which I have included only an excerpt, would get you there.

This is the conundrum that would face any healthcare professional, whom in the face of tremendous burnout, turns to Dr Google. Besides being told the inevitable, that he/she probably has late stage cancer (since that is the default diagnosis), it would then bombard the pitiable soul with nothing other than statistics and advice (condescendingly at times) that one should not live so stupidly, nor work so hard. I wasn’t even burnt out while extensively researching this topic, and I wanted to launch my cup of green tea through my laptop screen on numerous occasions. As boring a read as they may be, truth be told burnout is as real a problem as can be and has been for some time, spreading like wild fire. (too soon?)

The Burns Ward, is a project I am running with Dr Murtuza Ghiya to increase awareness and hopefully get more conversations started on a highly tabooed topic in clinical medicine. This is a darker topic than Sauron’s backside and it feels almost paradoxical that a person who left medicine should be bringing this topic up, but my pulpit on the periphery of clinical medicine let’s me bring it up without worrying about my clinical practice or professional reputation. It was more challenging than I imagined, to turn this topic into something more readable than a JAMA article, for the sake of your psyche and mine.

In keeping with the theme of burns I have broken down the current burnout management protocol:

Emergent management of burns (Revised Rule of 9): If one Goldflake cigarette is sufficient you have mild burns, if 9 Goldflakes don’t cut it perhaps nothing will, plus you’ll soon be out of cigarettes too. Airway, breathing and smoke circulation all accounted for!

Remove dirty necrotic tissue: For some reason, signs of exhaustion and depression in Medicine are treated like the plague and ‘need’ to be stamped out and swept away at the very first appearance. It’s like tapping Batman on the shoulder to report a crime and being hammered senseless by the Dark Knight instead. The logic seems absurd. Ignorance is clearly the ‘bane’ of our existence.

Modified Parklands Formula: 4 * body weight * Percent psychological burn * Number of idiotic irrational people dealt with * 60ml of Old Monk rum. In beer there is freedom, in wine there is health, in cognac there is power and in water there is bacteria.

Transfer to the Burns ward: Inevitably, and regrettably, all victims of burnout are thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire where it all began (pun intended). It’s like taking the Lord of the Rings series and giving it an inhuman twist. After much toil and tumult, Frodo reaches the fires of Mordor and heroically throws in and destroys the evil Ring of Power, only to be thrown in with it!

Rohan D’Souza: About the Author

Read more on physician burnout

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