Crash and Burn(out)

For the past month or so, I have been reviewing for my Critical Care re-certification Board Exam. In the US, they want us to re-certify every 10 years for our (sub)specialty Boards. So between certifying and re-certifying in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care Medicine and Sleep Medicine, it seems like I’m taking exams every year or so.

Few days ago, in my reviewer book, I came upon this practice question which made me think. I have never read this topic in any textbook nor heard it in any lectures or review course before. But after a minute of deliberation, I guessed the answer right.

Here’s the  review question:

Which is most commonly associated with burnout among critical care professionals?

A. Conflicts with patients and their families.

B. Conflicts with coworkers.

C. Severity of patient’s illness.

D. Increasing age of clinician.

So what’s your answer? Believe it or not, among the stressors that contribute to burnout among critical care professionals, conflict with coworkers is the most common (choice B is correct). In a survey of almost 7,500 ICU physicians and nurses, conflicts were perceived by 71.6%, with nurses-physician conflicts being the most common. It is also interesting to know that younger intensivists with less experience had higher levels of burnout than their older counterparts. (Source: ACCP-SEEK vol.XX)

I know that working in a critical care environment has a high burnout rate. And I am glad that I have no problems with my co-workers: fellow physicians, nurses, and other medical ancillary workers. This gives me more reason to love, appreciate and always try to get along with my co-workers – not only for the sake of the health of our patients but it is good for my health too.

Being in this line of work for more than 10 years, makes me old, but that is reassuring to know that being experienced makes me less prone to burnout. So there’s actually an advantage of getting old!

If I would give advice or create a practice question, here’s what I will draft:

What will be the best way to prevent burnout in your work?

A. Change career into a less stressful one. (Like, ah…. er….. a professional clown? On second thought, I don’t think a rodeo-clown is less stressful!)

B. Quit your job, and live in a remote place out of civilization, like a hermit.

C. Party every night after work, as if there’s no tomorrow, to release your stress. (Make your motto: eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die!)

D. Start and learn a new hobby……….like blogging!

I guess you know what answer I highly recommend.

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