That toasty smell I’ve been catching whiffs of for the past few weeks is the smell of my own impending burnout. I knew this day would come, but does it have to come so soon after going into practice? I’m barely 2 years out of the starting gate, and yet I’ve already had wistful thoughts of abandoning my practice and fleeing this sad little city.
The 3-day holiday weekend has helped rejuvenate me a little bit. But the past few weeks sucked. I’ve worked in social services long enough to recognize the signs of burnout as they develop. Chronic fatigue? check. Sense that nothing I do makes a difference? check. Desire to tear up my unfinished progress notes and run screaming out of the building? check. Inability to listen to patients talk about their terrible lives ad nauseum without feeling annoyed? check! What’s a community-health minded girl to do?
Last week one of the physicians at my practice stopped by my office to say goodnight. He informed me that he had seen 20 patients that day. Were his notes finished? Sure they were. Incredulously, I asked him how he had managed to finish them all on the same day. I work on notes until my eyes bleed, and I never get down to zero. “Simple,” he said. “Quality suffers. I have to sacrifice something, and it’s not going to be my family.” Wow. It’s so sad, and so true. I am perpetually behind because I refuse to spend my entire visit typing on the computer. I also refuse to dismiss patient’s concerns during the visit if they are relevant, and I refuse to write shitty notes. This makes me a superstar from a patient care perspective. But from the perspective of someone who hopes to one day have a family (which would preclude me from working 60 hours a week), this is unworkable. I’m going to have to figure out which piece of quality care is going to suffer. Hopefully it can be the documentation and not the face-to-face interactions. I should also take up yoga again. Too bad I’m perpetually fatigued. (Please, don’t tell me how doing exercise will invigorate me and give me extra energy–it’s always hard to drag my ass out of bed earlier than 6a.m. Yoga doesn’t make it better.)