What We Can Learn From Medical Student Burnout

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Medical Definition Of Burnout

1a:  exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration b:  a person affected with burnout

When researching the effects of burnout among medical students, it seems that most symptoms stem from similar circumstances to the ever-growing physician burnout rates: a broken system. The horrifying darkness caused by the broken healthcare system attaches itself early and continues to stalk and haunt its victim like the Boogeyman, from residency to the end of the professional careers of most healthcare providers.

By the time a student becomes a practicing physician, the effects can be so deeply entrenched, that life for the doctor is simply never the same. By now, you have heard the stories, or encountered internists who have endured suffering and been changed as a result of negative experiences of practicing medicine. Insurmountable pressures from dysfunctional insurance objectives, malpractice lawsuits, medical identity theft/fraud, unreasonable patient demands, countless unnoticed and unacknowledged gratitude and appreciation, and apathy caused by being immersed in so much death and unethical politically influenced protocols, are enough to break or corrupt even the strongest of character. Are you next?

In an excerpt from this gut-wrenching blog, an anonymous star med student reveals an inside look into medical burnout and the difficult blessing/curse crossroads that a medical student faces at time of matching. Better choose wisely, for your choice will greatly impact your life, the lives of those important to you, and possibly erode your views entirely with each and every step closer to your goal, becoming a doctor. Most of you may already be too late.

“I learned that too often do doctors, in general, have to fight the broken system, but internists especially. Broken patients. Broken insurance. A broken health care compensation system that prioritizes crisis intervention, and does not pay doctors to use their intelligence, skills, empathy and sense of humanity to really care for patients.” —anonymous medical student

Though steps are being implemented to improve the system, progress is painfully slow and often times regressive, affecting everyone involved – as revealed in this article comment from Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, following a published report speaking to top reasons the healthcare system is failing.

This multi-layered failing healthcare system didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. It is an ever-increasing comedy of errors driven by bad EHR integrations, bureaucratic influence,  and a clueless bunch of mostly innocent patients demanding the best healthcare available to them regardless of race, income, or neighborhood. The complexity of deeply embedded challenges in our healthcare system means that there is no clearly defined  roadmap to an optimal healthcare system.

“There is no other area of American life where we collectively accept such a bad deal. We spend more than any other nation on our military, but our military is unquestionably the mightiest in the world. We spend the most on our universities, but our universities are the best on the planet. But we spend the most on our health care—twice as much as anyone else—and our health system is mediocre-to-poor, with 47 million of us lacking the insurance necessary to easily access it.” Ezra Klein of the Washington Post

In this Medscape report, physicians who responded to 2103 and 2015 surveys were given a list of possible burnout causes and asked to rank them in importance. The list was the same in both years, with physicians ranking these factors on a scale of 1 (“not at all important”) to 7 (“extremely important”).

These compelling findings may inspire, or further convict the young doctors of tomorrow and serve as a great starting point in clearly choosing a specialty based off of self-awareness, and the quality of life desired… without all the glitz and glamour.

Joseph Bryant
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