I am an acute care surgeon who cares for injured patients, patients with general surgery emergencies, and critically ill surgical patients and a health services researcher whose body of work focuses on optimizing processes of care for these patients. In late 2014 I began researching surgeon burnout. The statistics on physician burnout are alarming and surgeons disproportionately affected.
As I took on the new professional challenge of educating others on burnout, it shook me to consider how many of my friends in surgery have succumb to the ravaging effects of its characteristic emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment. To be sure, the stresses and frustrations of my chosen career–from the long hours often interfering with self-care or kinship, to increasingly onerous administrative hurdles in the delivery of care, to constantly bearing witness to human suffering–have rendered me susceptible as well. But I do not want to be the burned out surgeon who no longer finds meaning in her work. Writing is an occasional outlet for me.
With this blog I aim to bring to you the moments that ground me to continue in my work, to feel joy in my profession. In these moments of joy, my mind is not focusing on how tired I am or the mounds of red tape I need to catch up on. Instead, I am focusing on what I bring to or can take away from my role in my patients’ and their families’ illness experiences as an acute care surgeon. At the same time, I wish to share my thoughts on the challenges that do impede in our ability to engage in these most joyful of patient encounters where the surgeon is focused on providing the best care, whether or not surgery is performed, for the patient in light of their unique needs and circumstances. In addition, just as illness does not occur in a vacuum devoid of social meaning, healthcare delivery does not occur in isolation and I will also occasionally address policy relevant topics that affect my work and the lives of my patients.
If you are interested in less serious aspects of personal life, including the myriad other ways in which I attempt to stave off burnout, check out “Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, & a Scalpel” where I used to write as @surgeoninheels along with a blogging partner who has since left the site.
My writing here reflects my own experiences and opinions and not those of my employer or any professional organization with which I am affiliated.
[Note: Some details have been changed to protect patient privacy but the experiences are my own. The thoughts shared here are my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to share or reblog with appropriate attribution of @heenastat and the original post URL.]