Physician and Nurse Burn-out – Part X Crying is not just for Sissies

Another day of grim statistics of rising new cases in the USA and elsewhere has swiftly passed.  The social media is awash with alarming reports of the Omicron variant that has arose in South Africa. The governments are clumsily trying to contain the spread of the Covid-19 to avoid another peak. In the meantime all the Health Care providers are exhausted of the efforts of the past few months. They are tired, demoralized, disgusted at the silly games that the D.C. politicians and sycophantic voices in the media, from almost every corner of the ideological spectrum, repeat like tragic clowns. And the families of physicians,, nurses, technicians, etc., are watching them slowly crumble away…

In this scenario, crying should be a natural human reaction…Why aren’t we welling up more?

There are troubling reports that the incidence of Mental Health disorders in Health Care personnel after the sacrifices they have made during the past year and a half is steadily rising to serious levels, with only palliative measures that concern financial benefits, and ignore the needed psycotherapy.

There are several factors that block physicians, and other medical personnel, to seek the needed counselling. The crazy work schedule of physicians and residents, the confidentiality issues that might affect the licensing status of practitioners, the personal issue of loneliness and divorce, all might contribute to it. We, the Health Care providers, are watching this drama unfolding before our eyes.

Note. This World War II poster of the Cadet Nurse Corps was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

It is always advisable to repeat, again and again, the major clinical signs of Professional Burn- Out. We transcribe a section of our book Emotional Frustration – the Hushed Plague. Here they are:

Professional burn-out is characterized by a most evident but ignored tragic triad:

  1. High emotional exhaustion
  2. High depersonalization
  3. Low sense of personal accomplishment

A – High emotional exhaustion

The increasing demands of payors, administrators and patients on the time and resources of the health care personnel produces a generalized dissatisfaction with the perceived quality of their delivered care services. The level of resilient frustration is so pervasively high in our system that physicians, nurses, technicians, receptionists, and other ancillary personnel are literally “counting the days” until the end of their silent martyrdom eventually comes—their retirement date.

B – High depersonalization

The negative feelings and bad vibes will inevitably foster the emergence of cynicism and sarcasm in the ranks of providers, with the resultant degradation of their rapport with the patients and families. It is a self-sustaining vicious circle. Patients complain that they are being ignored and/or mistreated, which triggers more negativity and disdain for the staff. As a result, the latter continue to react negatively without the possibility of pausing for a moment and reflect calmly.

C – Low sense of personal accomplishment

For the majority of us who have chosen the medical career, profit and social standing are secondary considerations. What we most value is the possibility of helping our fellow human beings and at the same time enjoy the unique standing conferred by possessing a voice of authority. With the landing of the abominable “bean counters”  in both the public and the private payor system, our maneuvering room has been drastically curtailed. Our decreasing satisfaction not only pushes us into early retirement but also into all kinds of drug and alcohol abuse in our ranks, plus the possibility of one day to casually start mulling about “the unthinkable.”

We will continue this discussion as the honest approach of all institutional parties and professional associations to the pressing issue of Mental Health Disorders in our battered professional ranks is of paramount importance to stem the steady exodus of colleagues to the Elysium of Retirement.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.