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243: A Burnout Story and What You Can Do to Avoid It: Session 243 Today, we're talking about burnout which is something very personal but very important in the grand scheme of the medical world and the premed world. Allison joins us to talk about her experience with burnout during residency and we talk...

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Session 243 Today, we're talking about burnout which is something very personal but very important in the grand scheme of the medical world and the premed world. Allison joins us to talk about her experience with burnout during residency and we talk about how you can hopefully cope during a stressful time. I've talked to a burnout expert before back on Episode 47 and we went through some free dance exercises and some other things. But I wanted to talk about burnout from a personal standpoint so I have Allison on the show to talk about her experience, what we experienced together going through that, and then how we can transition this and help the student though whatever they may be going through. [02:02] A Personal Experience: Allison's Residency Allison was going through a neurology residency which wasn't very easy at Massachusetts General Hospital, a big academic medical center. Even when we were married, at that time we were living apart. She was working 80 hours a week and had to do her one-year internship and the following year was her first year of neurosurgery residency and was on call every fourth night for about 32 hours. She describes it as a crazy and very intense experience with very sick people. Days off would be spent on sleeping and eating and not much "me time" which is apparently important. She realized something wasn't right once she noticed she had trouble concentrating. It was very disturbing for her since she always had to rely on her brain and she felt like she couldn't and this bothered her. For example, she would be at work and she'd have trouble getting her work done. It wasn't bad enough that it was apparent to everybody else, but to her who used to be very efficient and was used to getting things done quickly, she felt like she was moving like a tortoise. Fortunately, she wasn't on a busy rotation at that point and it was further into the year. "I just didn't feel like myself. I felt like I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror. And I was really down, super down, depressed." This happened during her first year of neurology residency and second year of residency as a whole. Again, first year was the prelim internship year. But Allison says her first year of neurology was 100 times busier. Month 7 and she just felt like it was starting to eat at her. She was just tired. She was living in cold Boston and she was practically working all the time. She had no work-life balance. She was back living with her parents after she recently got married and she found it very hard. I was back in the Air Force and busy and was doing my own stuff too. [07:05] No Outlet and Losing Focus on Your Health Allison and I would get on the phone and Allison would just say she was fine because she also didn't want to burden me. Her friends in residency were all going through the same thing and her friends outside medicine couldn't actually relate to what she was going through so she felt there were not any people she could talk to about it. They would sit around together but they really didn't talk about burnout. The residency program talked about it but it was also a well-known fact that first year was brutal and there was a light at the end of the tunnel and you just had to get there because the second and third years were much more manageable. Allison didn't know what was happening except that she felt bad. She didn't have time to sit around and feel sorry for herself. She was dealing with trying to take care of really sick people and didn't have time to focus on herself. "You're very focused on taking care of other people and sometimes to the detriment of your own health." [10:02] Premed Burnout and How to Avoid It As a premed, you may not be taking care of patients, but you're studying organic chemistry and physics and biology, chemistry, organic chem, and MCAT prep and biochem. It's kind of the same as you're trying to power through that. You're sacrificing sleep, exercise, and eating right. So students go through this

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