3 Tips for Surgeons to Promote Well-Being & Decrease Burnout


In a March 2017 Forbes article, Paula Davis-Laack (Founder of the David Laack Stress and Resilience Institute) offers a few tips for promoting well-being and decreasing burnout in the workplace. I’d like to examine these tips and see how they relate specifically to doctors and surgeons.

Don’t Ignore the Problem – Acknowledge & Track

All too often, doctors who exhibit the classic signs and symptoms of burnout simply ignore the issue and keep pressing on with their work. But ignoring these symptoms does nothing other than delay the inevitable. Left unchecked, the stressors that lead to burnout will build and get worse. It’s a much better practice to acknowledge these symptoms when they arise and begin to track them. Do these symptoms crop up at a certain time of day, or when engaging in a certain activity? Measuring symptoms will help you identify the root causes of your burnout and help you achieve greater well-being.

Seeking Out Resilience Resources

Resilience is a learned skill that can be incredibly effective at keeping burnout at bay. Using various tactics, resilient people can develop an increased mental strength and toughness that can significantly help reduce burnout. Surgeons with high resiliency are much more likely to keep going when less-resilient people have already given up.

Finding Your Work / Life Integration (Rhythm)

Paula calls this “work / life integration” but I like to use the phrase “work / life rhythm.” Paula’s point is that efforts to integrate them will create more successful careers and relationships. My point is that our career demands are more successfully integrated when our other life responsibilities are addressed with quality and focus. I consider myself in my rhythm when I move from one role or relationship to the next with focus and quality in that role or relationship. This requires ongoing efforts, and the ability to say no when necessary.

Putting These Tips into Practice

Now it’s time to put these tips into practice! If you have questions about how to do that, or want to connect with like-minded surgeons about their well-being tips and tricks, subscribe to SurgeonMasters! With webinars, podcasts, and local meetups, SurgeonMasters aims to connect like-minded surgeons with one another and share tips to develop thriving and sustainable lifestyle-friendly practices.

Source: https://www-forbes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.forbes.com/sites/pauladavislaack/2017/03/06/organizational-strategies-that-promote-well-being-and-reduce-burnout/amp/

Why Burnout Rates Are Higher Among Female Surgeons

Photo by gpointstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by gpointstudio/iStock / Getty Images

A recent article published in Modern Medicine discusses the prevalence of burnout among female physicians and why women doctors are more prone to work burnout than their male counterparts. In this article, we are going to discuss why women surgeons have higher burnout rates compared to men, as well as some burnout prevention tips.

Are Women More Burned Out Than Men?

Statistically, women physicians are experiencing more burnout in the workplace than men. But why is that? Doctors of both genders have to deal with long work hours, patient concerns, bureaucratic tasks, and more at work – all of which can contribute to burnout. On top of that, many women experience “role strain” as they juggle various roles as physician, spouse, mother, etc. Compared to their male counterparts, female physicians are more likely to take on household and childcare responsibilities. Female doctors are also more likely to accommodate their work schedules around household and family events. As a result, many female doctors effectively start a “second shift” when they get home from their job – managing household tasks and taking care of children. Juggling the operating room and added stresses of a surgeon often make this even more difficult.

A lot of these factors are the result of outdated social norms. While more and more female physicians are entering the field of medicine every year, these norms can be difficult to break. Most surgeons also have an inner critic and may be comparing themselves to others in a previous generation or to those who make it look so easy. The ways in which women and men experience burnout can also differ significantly.

Burnout Prevention Tips

With female physicians at a greater risk of burnout, what can be done to prevent burnout before it strikes? Here are a few tips:

  • Set Boundaries.

  • Learn When & How to Say No

  • Communicate Effectively with your Co-workers & Family

  • Recognize the Signs of Burnout

SurgeonMasters & The 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons

SurgeonMasters is a group of like-minded surgeons (both male and female) of various backgrounds and specialties. Our goal is to create successful and sustainable practices and healthy lifestyles by providing educational resources, as well as a place for surgeons to share their stories and support one another. As a collective, we aim to implement The 8  PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons into work and home life. The 8 PRACTICEs is a methodology I developed after dealing with burnout first-hand. These PRACTICEs promote work / life balance and rhythm and are applicable to both male and female surgeons.

Source article: http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/marriage-children-cause-more-burnout-female-physicians?GUID=372B852B-2A5D-4711-A0BD-0A1CD38BED93&rememberme=1&ts=15042017

Tips For Not Letting Your Job Overrun Your Family Life

Family is one of (if not the) most important things in life. But many surgeons don’t get to spend quality time with their families because of grueling work hours, exhaustion, and burnout. Surgeons often work long hours and experience a lot of stress at work. Even those who do find the time to spend with family – that time is often weighed down by exhaustion and stress that bleeds over from work.

I’m here to tell you that I was one who used to struggle to strike a healthy “balance” between work and family life. Now I simply aim for improvement and focus on rhythm. It takes some effort, but in the end you will be happier in your job and in the fact that you are improving the quality (and/or quantity) of time with your family. This article will offer a few tips to stop allowing your job as a surgeon to overrun your family life.

Set Limits for Yourself

Most surgeons I’ve met are incredibly competitive individuals who are constantly pushing themselves to perform better at their jobs. It’s this quality that makes them great physicians, but it can also be a detriment. Pushing yourself too hard can cause undue stress and ultimately lead to burnout. So set limits for yourself and enforce them! Without these checks and balances, you and your family lose out on life.

Take Time Off

Use your vacation days and take time off work several times a year. Take your family on a trip and create some memories. Or just stay home and spend some quality time with your family and away from your job. When you do get back to work, you’ll feel energized and be more productive. (WARNING: You can also feel more stressed and discouraged if at the same time you don’t follow the tips above and below!).

Say No When You Need To

A lot of doctors have a difficult time saying no to work-related requests. But you have to know your limits and when to say no. You can’t cover everything. Spreading yourself too thin won’t benefit anyone – not you, your family, or your patients. So say no when you need to.

I’m no stranger to the stress and exhaustion that comes with being a practicing surgeon. There are times when I am so focused on work that I worry about my family. That’s time that you can’t get back. I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how so I created my own methodology that I call The 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons to help me constantly improve with positive, sustainable techniques. After implementing this methodology into my everyday life, I am much happier in my work and in my ability to spend quality time with my family. This methodology can work for any surgeon in any sub-specialty. Contact me today to learn more about the 8 PRACTICEs and how they can help you find your rhythm, flow or balance.

Top 4 Things that Cause Surgeon Burnout

Surgeon burnout has become a serious problem in recent years, reaching near epidemic levels. Even for doctors who have experienced burnout, it can be difficult to pinpoint the factors that are contributing to the burnout itself. In this article, I’m going to discuss a few of the most common things that can lead to burnout among surgeons.

Bureaucratic Tasks

Many patients don’t realize the amount of bureaucratic tasks that a physician has to complete on a daily basis. It’s estimated that for every hour spent with a patient, a doctor has to complete two hours worth of paperwork.

Long Work Hours

Doctors often work incredibly long hours. When you’re consistently putting in 70-80 hours or more during your work week, there is little time left to spend with family or to engage in the activities you love. These long work hours can lead to exhaustion and burnout.

Work Stressors

Doctors have an inherently high stakes job. Surgeons are responsible for patients’ lives every day. When an office worker makes a mistake on a spreadsheet, it’s usually pretty easy to fix. When a surgeon makes a mistake, it may result in a patient dying. This is an incredibly amount of stress that surgeons have to deal with on a routine basis.

Keeping Up with Changes

Change is stressful for most people. Surgeons have to deal with change on a constant basis – especially over the past decade or so with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. Keeping up with these changes can cause undue stress.

If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of physician burnout, be proactive and take steps to prevent burnout before it gets worse. Doctors and surgeons are often expected to work grueling hours, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a good work/life balance. I have developed a methodology called the 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons that has helped me simplify and balance my work as a surgeon with my family life and hobbies. If you are a doctor struggling with burnout, contact me today to learn more about my methodology and to sign up for a consultation.

The Fastest Way to Create Change

Creating change in your life and career can feel like an impossible task.

If you’ve been unhappy or managing the status quo for a long time, you probably feel overwhelmed because many areas of your practice need attention. You may even feel a bit hopeless, like no matter what you do you won’t make a dent. Or you may just feel that you don't want to rock the boat, because your practice is tolerable.

Debt-Snowball Method

When you’re feeling this frustrated, one of the most effective ways to create change is to use the debt-snowball method, popularized by Dave Ramsey (Financial Author).

The debt-snowball method is a method of debt reduction that promotes paying off the debt with the smallest balance first, and then working your way up to the larger ones. You benefit psychologically from seeing results much sooner, and this keeps you motivated for the larger debts, and ultimately debt relief earlier.

To use this method to effect change in your life, begin by writing down everything that’s causing you frustration. Then order each of these items, beginning with the one that’s easiest to change and ending with the one that’s hardest to change.

A Few Examples

For example, the hardest thing to change might be a general dissatisfaction with life or the Affordable Care Act, while the easiest problem to fix might be a difficult commute or a few time saving steps in your EMR. In this case, you’d want to tackle the commute first and work your way up to the general dissatisfaction problem.

Your action item this week is to address one thing in your life that’s causing you frustration but isn’t too difficult to fix. I encourage you to stay accountable by posting the change you intend to make in the comment box below.