Confessional Time

I realized Thursday that I was not taking care of myself very well. It is a long story but I found myself closing the door of my office and crying out of anger and frustration. I can take a lot of anger and frustration before I break down so this was alarming. I decided that I needed to play hookie from the clinic for a few days to take care of me.

In the process of that, I read this:

Medscape Physician Lifestyles Report for 2015 (It is in slide-show format and also talks about physician usage of weed if you were curious.)

Physician feelings of burn out were 50% for family medicine in the US. Family medicine is my specialty. We were third over all specialties. Only critical care and emergency medicine scored higher at 53% and 52% respectively.

Causes of physician burn out? The top five were: too many bureaucratic tasks, too many hours at work, income not high enough (before you roll your eyes thinking we are all spoiled brats, remember physicians are making less and less every year and that combined with the other issues listed here magnifies the sense of loss, right or wrong), increasing computerization (which would be fine if someone would just make an affordable, user friendly electronic health record for crying out loud), impact of the Affordable Care Act (I need to do a post on that specifically as I am starting to see the issues more here now that it has been in place for a bit).

Overall, 43% of men and 51% of women were burned out. I thought that was an interesting statistic.

I was sitting on the tenth floor of the big system hospital reading that report yesterday. Where did I flee on my day off? To the hospital because it has wifi and it is not my house. I had my work computer open in front of me, logged into my EHR (electronic health record) flipping back and forth from it to the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven I had playing into my earbuds. I sat there for eight hours. It was blissful.

I have issues.

This morning I am a basket case again and I cannot figure out if it is the extra cup of French press coffee I had this AM or something else more sinister coming back….


I have a fear of being sued that hangs over my head like a dark cloud that could break open, pouring forth at any moment. It is remarkable that I have made it to this point in my career without facing that as a reality but it feels closer and closer every year that I am in practice. Flirting with the odds. (Bear with me as I superstitiously knock on wood. It is a thing I do whenever I talk about this sort of thing. It helps ward off the bad juju.)

I fear corporate medicine and the changes it has wrought.

I have significant anxiety about my professional reputation.

I worry about my patients constantly.

I worry about my kids just as much.

I am anxious the whole time I am away from the office that when I get back to the office I will have to put out tons of fires. That is not an irrational fear. It usually happens.

But I don’t bring this up so you will pity me. We all have stresses. We all have fears and anxieties. I have a pretty dang good life when all is said and done. I just want people to understand that I am human, not super woman. Not even hardly. I may seem like I have everything together. I don’t.

Blogging keeps me sane. Truthfully, I probably get more from you all than you get from me in the end….


173 thoughts on “Confessional Time

  1. I don’t even know what to say – except that I understand, in a weird and twisted way. My stress is different, but It’s also the same…
    Thank-you for blogging, thank-you for sharing, thank-you for always reading! You always tell me to take care of myself first… you should do the same. (I know we’e bad at taking our own advice, in general)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The past few weeks I have felt that lump in my throat more often too. Like you, I freely admit it comes from not taking care of myself-not practicing what I preach to patients. I think I start to feel that free floating anxiety when I am feeling most powerless. I feel powerless over my schedule- having the time to get to know the patient, the endless demands of charting. All those things seem much more manageable when I taking care of myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly, I have no idea how you do what you do now. If the government would get the H…LL out of medicine and the doctor’s would be back in charge of the patients…it would not only be cheaper…but better patient care! They have at least tripled the paperwork and the number of managers that have to justify their positions. Doctors are people too and have the same stresses that others have…Unfortunately I am afraid it is going to get worse before it gets better. Time to draw a line in the sand and take the time YOU need to stay healthy. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Since I’m not superwoman, and have to go to sleep some time, I’m not even going to try to read all those other comments. I am no stranger to worry and anxiety. It amazes me that working in the health care system can be so unhealthy! And those damn bureaucratic/computer type tasks that keep increasing every year are a big part of it for me, because I didn’t expect it. I expect to worry over whether some one is going to relapse or commit suicide. But there is just too much other BS to keep up with. When my kids were young, I really felt burnt out with compassion fatigue. I’ve learned, after 30 years, to not take the job home with me, most of the time, because I couldn’t do it all. You need time for you. Claim it! And about your fear of being sued, does worrying about it make it feel any less close? If you ever do get sued, you will handle it. You will find the support you need and get through it. You will still be a good doctor. And maybe you haven’t been sued, because people recognize you are a good doctor. What we focus on gets bigger. Focus on continuing your successful career in spite of the screwed up system. Focus sometimes on vacations where you really do get away. Do something fun that you enjoy outside of work. Thank you for your confession. It reminds me that I’m not the only one who feels burnt out and anxious. I love your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Could you take 30min off a
    Couple of times a week and go for a run? Running really is my best anti-stress medicine. If you are a beginner and don’t know where to start, the NHS has a free couch to 5K podcast that you can download and run to (it starts with alternating run/jog before running only).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wish I knew what to say to make things better. I’m in science research and have different stresses but along the same lines. It seems like stress levels are high all around right now. I’ve been working on fitting more exercise in as that seems to help me. Hope some running or audio books can help bring your stress down a touch!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, Victo. You contribute so much to humanity – helping the sick, being a Mom, sharing your life with us here on your blog. It amazes me that some professionals like yourself actually have such a balanced life. When i owned my own company I spent 24/7 working (I consider it working even when you sleep, as long as you are not in your own bed at home but are in a hotel because of business). Your contribution is so important and makes such a positive difference in so many people’s lives. Don’t underestimate your impact. That being said, I don’t doubt that the day to day of doing that causes stress and worry. Many here in your comments spoke of taking time off, treating yourself with the compassion with which you treat others, using various regimes to help reduce the stress (i.e. yoga), etc. I don’t doubt that each of those strategies will help. To my point. A few mentioned, in passing, that they had found peace in the spiritual side of life. No doubt in my mind that this is what has kept me together over the years – through the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I’ve met the grim reaper a few times,. when a situation has completely left my control and I have come through in one piece but with a slightly altered and much more spiritual view of reality. Typically many see spirituality as one more brick in the walls of the house of their lives. My realization is that it really is my foundation – the fundamentals on which my house is actually built. It has helped me a lot in dealing with stress – cearly delineating when I am responsible and when not. And when to kick the problem upstairs.

    I wish you a long and stress-resistant life Victo. Your contribution is critical and greatly appeciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Just a stick in my spokes. No biggie. | Miss Understood

  9. I don’t know about where you live, of course, but here in Florida, a medical malpractice lawsuit is VERY difficult to pursue because a threshold of intentional negligence has to be met. If you are not sure of the legal side of things in your state, you might want to visit a med mal attorney to put your mind at ease. Here, even when there’s a surgery where a doctor left a sponge in a patient, and the patient needs to be reopened to remove it, it is unlikely the case ever goes as far a trial, because the trial would cost more than the verdict (which would be around $30K). As such, most med mal cases are settled in the demand letter stage, and a lawsuit is rarely actually filed. And of course, the physician’s insurance negotiates and pays off the demand. So my prescription for you? Please at least put that worry to bed… You’re an awesome doctor! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. There’s no need to reply Victo.
    I love the honesty in your posts and the caring approach you have. Thank you.
    I am on the Spanish Health system, no insurance, basically free for patients except a token payment for medication at the chemist shops.
    For the first time in my life, for the past 2 years I have seen you doctors in action, the huge quantity of patients, long hours and most of the time on the computer. I chat with my Neurologist about her life and work. She has opened up to me and wants to move to France as she is tired with shift work, rotating day/nights etc. I treat her as a human, not a god, have fun and she enjoys it. I took her a present of chocolates on Thursday and she was thrilled. You and all doctors are human which most patients forget.
    So. I am following. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We are a nation of people suffering from PTSD. Anxiety is a constant, sometimes the more insidious because we’re not sure if the thing we fear is real. I’ve been retired nine years and I’m still learning to relax. My best advice comes from the “Desiderata”, from which I quote, “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself”.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I feel such deep empathy for you as a caring, committed mom, daughter, doctor, (and much more that goes unstated). You went into medicine with a pure heart and motives as did such a huge number of others. Now the most beautiful core element (the ability to heal and change lives) is challenged and eroded with red tape and futility. Thank you for sharing and for your dedication – for struggling, surviving, and for caring enough to be real.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Amazingly honest. I often tell my students (clients) that you can’t give of yourself 100% unless you are at 100% and while it feels selfish, taking time to invest in yourself allows you to give yourself. Good luck on that journey and balancing that. Keep blogging, I enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

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