Physician Burnout Line helps Doctors who are reaching their Breaking Points

By Jeremy Shuman

Over the past few days I’ve seen St. Louis frontline healthcare workers getting vaccinated against COVID-19 all over social media. These images bring so much hope into my heart, and yet, I also notice an increase in the proportion of new client inquiries from medical professionals facing unprecedented stress and burnout. Our nation’s healthcare workers have to bear a disproportionate share of the collective trauma of the pandemic.  

My experience working with healthcare workers suggests that working on COVID-19 units puts people under extreme duress, and that it is easy to slip into a reactive and combative mood.  Other folks become so hopeless and burned out that their empathy suffers and their quality of life is destroyed.  

Physicians in particular are put in a difficult situation because their role calls for them to act in a way that is rational but warm, poised at all times, indefatigable, and infallible.  They assume the most liability of anyone in the hospital, and they are not immune to the stress, chaotic life, and life or death decision making.  

When perfectionistic personal standards meet a pressured sense of hyper-responsibility, and that combination is pushed up against an insurmountable challenge, physicians can be pushed to a breaking point.  Further, physicians tend to be in relationships where they are depended upon, and they may not have anyone in their lives who they can be completely vulnerable with.  Physicians often struggle to find the time to do therapy or struggle to find a good personal fit.

The Physician Support Line is a mental health resource for physicians only, staffed by psychiatrist volunteers. Please help spread this resource. It’s free, it’s confidential, and no appointment is needed.  It’s open seven days a week 8AM-1AM Eastern time zone.  1-888-409-0141.   www.physiciansupportline.com

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