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Pondering over ideas

The subject of burnout reflects the reality that we never get the time to account for our own emotions and feelings.

No matter what area of healthcare we are in — direct or indirect patient care — there is a lot of tragedy that we see, hear about, and even treat, especially now in the time of the pandemic.

We — no matter the area of our expertise — are involved with patient care. The big question is do we or even how do we take care of ourselves. We have an emotional bank, a little bit different theory than Stephen R Covey describes in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Allow me to explain. Although we typically report on healthcare’s rules, regulations, and professional practices on ICD10monitor, we need to pause and focus on the emotional side of ourselves that cannot be eliminated from our typical reporting. Our emotional side is what makes us unique as human beings.

We are hearing so many stories today about professional burnout in the healthcare arena. Is it really burnout, is it stress and a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reaction, or is it an emptying of our emotional bank? Burnout has been defined as a work-related stress syndrome resulting from chronic exposure to job stress. The term was introduced in the early 1970s by the German-born American psychoanalyst Herbert J. Freudenberger, who is typically associated as the one who coined the term “burnout.”

Burnout can occur in any kind of profession, but let’s talk about healthcare. As caregivers, we go from patient to patient to patient, changing emotions, changing mental pathways, constantly without missing a beat. Yet we never get the time to account for our own emotions and feelings.

Doing this day after day after day empties our emotional bank, whether we are aware of it or not, leading to the point of overdraft or even bankruptcy of our own personal ability to continue to deal with this stress. We never allow ourselves to process our grieving and over time this “bankruptcy” of emotions can lead to burnout. We can’t take it anymore. How do we treat burnout? How do we re-inspire our love for what we do?

Truly all healthcare workers are the best at what they do. We must allow ourselves, not the luxury, but the necessity of going through the grieving process. It will help to decrease the stress.

We need to reignite the fire of passion for what we do and remember why we entered this field.

Programming Note: Listen to Dr. John Zelem every Tuesday on Talk Ten Tuesdays, 10 Eastern.

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John Zelem, MD, FACS

John Zelem, MD, is principal owner and chief executive officer of Streamline Solutions Consulting, Inc. providing technology-enabled, expert physician advisor services. A board-certified general surgeon with more than 26 years of clinical experience, Dr. Zelem managed quality assessment and improvement as a former executive medical director in the past. He developed expertise in compliance, contracts and regulations, utilization review, case management, client relations, physician advisor programs, and physician education. Dr. Zelem is a member of the RACmonitor editorial board.

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