In a short book – or a long essay, depending on how you look at it – Starla Fitch MD addresses the matter of physician burnout. She does not really waste time telling us things we already know: that physician burnout rates are high and prevention rates are dismal.
Instead, she falls with the door into the house by providing a remedy for burnout. She divides them into two categories: personal prescriptions, such as resilience and self-worth; and interpersonal prescriptions, impressing the importance of support and connection.
In case the reader feels that a particular chapter is hard to apply, there is a concise “prescription” at the end of each chapter, offering tangible steps to take in order to “fill” a certain “prescription”.
The book is certainly not all-encompassing, but it is a great starting point, given that most physicians would hardly have the time to read a much more detailed book on the matter. Of course, to take these “prescriptions” seriously, one must be aware of one’s own vulnerability, so it is of no use to physicians who refuse to admit to compassion fatigue.
Also, this book may be more a mode of primary or, in special cases, secondary prevention of burnout. In a case of fully-fledged burnout, a physician would need more help than the pointers provided in this text. That is probably my biggest critique of this text.
I also think that this book is more applicable to cases where people have gradually fallen out of love with medicine, more like disillusionment, rather than an acute burnout situation. For example, I think that doctors in developing countries who deal with some horrific situations and poor resources, may need a bit of a stronger “prescription”. I’m hoping I can figure out what that is soon.
Nevertheless, the steps highlighted by Fitch are well worth remembering, and I would love for this short text to be made available to all young doctors upon graduation, in an effort to improve the health of all our patients – including ourselves.
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. While this book isn’t free, Fitch’s website does offer other free resources on the topic.