Residency

Heard this week: The real cause of burnout

Residency Program Insider, March 6, 2014

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To understand the cause of burnout in young doctors, one physician looked to a 19th century novel.

Although long hours and tough exams are often blamed, environmental pressures that cause physicians to lose sight of their core principles—caring for other humans—is what leads to burnout, Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD, writes at The Altantic’s website.
 
“Burnout at its deepest level is not the result of some train wreck of examinations, long call shifts, or poor clinical evaluations,” Gunderman writes. “It is the sum total of hundreds and thousands of tiny betrayals of purpose, each one so minute that it hardly attracts notice.” 
 
Gunderman uses the classic novel Middlemarch, in which a physician loses his sense of purpose, to demonstrate his point. He suggests that medical education should encourage learners to nourish their imaginations. 
                           
“Books like Middlemarch are no panacea, but they offer precisely the imaginative nourishment so often missing from contemporary medical education, a powerful antidote to the insidious forces that produce burnout,” he writes.

 



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