We love our iPhones. Its useful in accessing email, finances, social media, and a multitude of medical apps. The only downside of the frequent usage is the battery tends to be drained near the end of the day. This is easily fixed with a simple plug-in to the wall outlet and a few hours later, BOOM, fully charged.
Doctors are like iPhones. Today, it feels like there are a lot of half-charged or quarter-charged physicians. According to an article in Amednews.com:
Nearly half of physicians struggle with burnout. High rates of exhaustion and depersonalization are driving many to consider leaving practice, which would exacerbate doctor shortages and affect patient care.
When I think of burnout, I think of a person who needs to get recharged. It's almost as simple as plugging an iPhone into the socket, except the greatest challenge is to give the adequate time necessary to re-charge.
Now imagine a world where anytime you went to plug in your iPhone someone came up to you and slapped your charger out of your hands, accusing your iPhone of being selfish or lazy.
Well you don’t need to imagine it. While there is no stigma for an iPhone for being plugged in the wall, we consciously or unconsciously find ourselves feeling shamed for taking a break amidst a busy shift. Or whispers turn to gossip when someone takes a sick day.
Comparing us to iPhones, it would make sense to prize a physician who is energized, present, healthy, balanced, and fully using their medical skills. Although we say we favor this type of physician, our medical culture speak otherwise. The current fleet of zombie-like, preoccupied physicians is evidence of this. If we really wanted what we say we do, we would support our colleagues in recharging their batteries.
Instead we expect increased patient satisfaction, higher RVUs, better technical skills while not supporting the rejuvenation of the physician to be able to accomplish this. How absurd would it be to demand our iPhones to work perfectly the next day, but refuse to plug it in overnight? Yet that is exactly what we do with ourselves and our colleagues.
Humans are way more complex and unique than a simple iPhone. So for some people, the time to recharge may take a few days. For others, a few weeks to months to years. Furthermore, some people may benefit greatly when they remove some of the apps (or activities) that deplete their energy the fastest.
What could we do if we were ALL fully charged?