Burn-Out in Medical Education is Real

Burn-out can affect physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals, so don’t be surprised if it affects medical students as well. According to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, 50% of students experience burn-out.

Just as important as learning to make a sound treatment plan for a medically complex patient are crucial skills developed as a student doctor, learning to prevent or manage burn-out in medicine is also an equally important skill.

According to the AAMC, burn-out is defined by three indicators: emotional exhaustion associated with work-related stress, feelings of detachment toward patients, and low sense of personal accomplishment.

Stress is the number one cause of burn-out among students and doctors. Learn to manage high stress levels early on in the first year of medical training is ideal, so figure out what your personal triggers for feelings of exhaustion and burn-out are key. You can’t avoid stress in this profession, but you can certainly recognize the signs and manage them to the best of your ability. As far as being a mentally and emotionally medical students, you have to look out for yourself and protect yourself because no one is going to help you with this aspect of the training.

Medical education can be dehumanizing and can disrupt the image of your self-worth.  Rarely is there support and encouragement from faculty and administration to take care of your mental health.

There are numerous factors affecting burn-out in medical students: overwhelming volume of knowledge, long hours in the lecture hall then clinics, never-ending deadlines, and routine exam schedules.

Working in silo also aggravates the feeling of burn-out even more. In other words, having a mentor would counteract these feelings. We met many faculty members and administration throughout the years, but rarely identify one mentor to confide in and get feedback from. Knowing someone who has been through the experience and sharing the experience with others can combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Misery, after all, does love company.

According to a Medscape article, “there should be preventative strategies to improve wellbeing and mental health in students.”

I think these strategies, though, go deeper than providing free fruit one day per week or free massages during finals week. I think curriculum should be evaluated in a way that asks important questions such as whether required coursework is actually enriching or diminishing student success?

The objective in addressing the burn-out issue in medical education is to foster an environment that helps prevent or manage stress among medical students. Patients deserve providers who are fully engaged, optimistic, and physically and mentally well. Here are some ways to prevent it from affecting you.

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sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.

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