Rediscovering the Spark that Led Us into the Healing Profession
Lately it seems that every patient who walks through my door is dealing with burnout and stress. I hear myself having the same conversations over and over again; talking about the importance of work-life balance, healthy diet, daily meditation and regular exercise and filling up your own well first before giving to others. As I hear these words coming out of my mouth – and I really do believe them - I recognize that it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns and recently, I have not been fully walking my talk. This saddens me, but I love how the universe always provides a mirror to remind us of what we need to look at most in ourselves!Most of us in the healing profession have come by our codependency quite honestly. We were the sensitive ones who were acutely aware of the suffering of others and we wanted to do something about it. In fact, sometimes our very survival depended upon it! We became very good at taking care of other people, of putting their needs first and we were amply rewarded and valued for our contributions. Our training as physicians only served to reinforce the notion that our own needs are secondary to the needs of others. Sleep? Who needs it! 40 hour work weeks? How about 80 or even 120? Whenever there is more energy going out than coming back in, we are deficit spending. This can work for the short term, but when it becomes a longterm strategy, it is a recipe for disaster!
A recent study in JAMA concludes, not surprisingly, that the issue of burnout and dissatisfaction with work-life balance is even more common among physicians than among other US workers. Physicians at the front line of care, such as primary care providers, are at the greatest risk. Fully 50% of physicians report symptoms of professional burnout, a syndrome characterized by “loss of enthusiasm for work (emotional exhaustion), feelings of cynicism (depersonalization), and a low sense of personal accomplishment.” It goes on to suggest that “burnout may erode professionalism, influence quality of care, increase the risk for medical errors, and promote early retirement.” Personal consequences for physicians include “broken relationships, problematic alcohol use, and suicidal ideation.” Although this study specifically addresses the issue of burnout among physicians, I see similar issues among my brothers and sisters in the other healing professions as well.
There are ample opportunities out there to feed your left brain, but it is with the reality of professional burnout in mind that the AHMA has made it a top priority to support the heart and soul of our members, whether you are a physician, a nurse or any other health professional. We are doing this by providing a series of workshops and retreats that are specifically designed to address the concept of “Healing the Healer.” Molly and I kicked off the series with a “Finding the Healer Within” retreat in Petaluma, Calif. last fall. I am happy to report that the retreat was a great success and it was truly an honor to touch and be touched by the beautiful souls of the healers who chose to participate. People who are drawn to the healing profession are a unique and special breed. You deserve the time to care for yourself and nurture your own soul!
So I’d like to give a shout out to my friend Daniel Friedland, MD, who is facilitating our next workshop, “Rediscovering the Spirit of Healthcare,” held immediately following ABIHM's 13th Annual Science and Clinical Application of Integrative Holistic Medicine conference in San Diego, Nov. 2. Dr. Friedland is a gifted teacher whose workshop explores the stressors and responses that tax the spirit of healthcare as well as what provides our deepest fulfillment in delivering healthcare. For more information...
By all means go to the Integrative Medicine conference, feed your brain and learn what you can learn, but I encourage you to take that last day to do something positive for yourself. Rediscover the spark that led you into this healing profession in the first place. Daniel’s workshop will be taking place while the ABIHM Board candidates are sitting for their certification exam. If you are not taking the exam, or if you are a spouse or guest of someone who is, don’t miss this opportunity for your own healing. You will be doing a huge favor for yourself, your family and your patients/clients!
Bruce Roberts, MD is an Integrative Holistic Physician with the Institute for Health & Healing, in San Francisco. Along with his wife and AHMA president, Molly Roberts, MD, Bruce led the last AHMA retreat, "Finding the Healer Within."