LAS VEGAS—In a month or two or six, when you’re back at work and the motivation from ACEP16 feels like it may cede to the burnout of daily life, look around your emergency department and try to notice a few things you normally wouldn’t.
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Maybe it’s seeing a boarded patient as an 85 year old whose life story would enthrall, rather than another elderly patient on a carousel to their nursing home. Or maybe it’s seeing a colleague give thanks to the oft-forgotten housekeeper for cleaning up after a particularly soiled patient.
Sometimes, the little things can be the simplest way to fight that proverbial burnout, or as James D. Mills Jr. Memorial Lecture presenter Thom Mayer, MD, FACEP, FAAP, called it, “the silent epidemic stealing our passion.”
“To combat burnout, we have to remember the power of one,” said Dr. Mayer, executive vice president of EmCare, founder and chief executive officer of BestPractices, Inc., the medical director for the NFL Players Association, and a clinical professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. and University of Virginia School of Medicine, in Charlottesville.
“One doc. One patient. One family. One team of people. One choice. Because when you walk into that patient’s room, you are going to make a difference…what’s that difference going to be?”
The session, “Loving the Job You Have While Creating the Job You Love,” was intended to give emergency physicians coping skills to take back home with them. The advice, in many ways, boils down to three questions-and-answers.
What do you love? Maximize that.
What do you tolerate? Minimize that.
What do you hate? Eliminate that.
To not ask those questions—nor pay attention to the self-reflective answers they might elicit—is to perpetuate the problem of burnout, Dr. Mayer said. The issue is even worse for those at the top of the specialty, as they’re the most affected.
“There’s a hidden cost to what we do,” he added. “The sad, unfortunate, and, perhaps, shocking thing about that is that those of us who care most, those of us who are most passionate, those of us who believe in what we do, are most at risk.”
People like Rochelle Chijioke Asagbra, MD, an emergency physician who just moved to Greenville, North Carolina. She acknowledged that from “time to time” she’s felt the buzzwords of burnout—feelings of inadequacy, feelings of unimportance. What she took from Dr. Mayer is keeping perspective.