vastBy Amy Fogelman, MD
What is Burnout
Burnout in Medicine is at an all-time high. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Burnout is defined as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The phenomenon has been brewing for years but worsened during the 2020 pandemic. Physicians and other medical professionals are running on an empty tank. Symptoms include 1) emotional exhaustion, 2) lack of empathy /increased cynicism, and 3) reduced professional efficacy.
My Burnout Story
When I imagined my medical career as a college student embarking on the MCAT, I never envisioned that I would ever see patient care as a burden. All I wanted was to help take care of patients. After medical school and a residency in Internal Medicine, I started working as a primary care physician (PCP). I looked forward to being able to help patients through all their life events.
However, after 16 years as a PCP in Boston, I experienced serious career burnout, which in retrospect had been present for a long time before. I decided to take time off from patient care to recharge and create my second career.
There were a couple of factors- in addition to the job itself- that led to my burnout being unsustainable. One was a personal illness from a traumatic brain injury, and the other was the death of my father. When you add that to patients and employers who complained about things well out of my control such as billing/insurance issues I became cranky and anxious.
How I Left
It was my husband who encouraged me to leave my clinical job and take some time off. I was so engrossed in the work that I didn’t even see that leaving was an option. It is always an option.
Then I met with a career coach who totally changed my life. I had been on a treadmill and didn’t know how many alternatives existed that were ‘off the track.’ My coach had me examine the things intrinsically inside me that I enjoy and/or am good at to select a second career that sang to me.
There is a vast network of nonclinical physician who are willing to help. I had about a thousand cups of coffee, and I learned that there are so many options for a physician that do not involve patient care. Everything from working in: Big Pharma, start- ups, healthcare tech companies, insurance, publishing, and more…. It was during this time that I realized being a business owner was the path for me.
My Next Chapter
The idea for my company was a lightbulb moment. For years over the dinner table, I had been giving my attorney husband advice on the medical facts of his legal cases. I realized that there was a need for a physician like me to help other attorneys. So, in 2018 I founded MED LAW Consulting to help find qualified medical experts for attorneys’ litigation needs. Attorneys hire me to find the right Medical Experts for their cases.
I also discovered that while many medical professionals are interested, in theory, in serving as Medical Experts, they are unsure how to actually do that. So, in 2020, I began formally advising medical professionals on the ins-and-outs of performing Medical Expert work. I also created a course for Medical Experts who are just starting out.
Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to use my creativity and expand my innovative spirit which I never realized that I had.
And last, but not least, I am seeing patients again. Because it is on my own terms and I am no longer burned out, it is again with empathy and gratitude.
Amy G. Fogelman, MD
Founder & Medical Director, MED LAW Consulting, LLC.
Dr. Fogelman is an Internal Medicine Physician and Medical Expert Specialist.
Aymes, M.D., S. (2020, September 22). Physician burnout: Running on an empty tank. Medical News Today. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/physician-burnout-running-on-an-empty-tank.
Departmental News, (2019, May 29). Burn-out an “Occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. World Health Organization. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases.
Hartzband, P., & Groopman, J. (2020). Physician burnout, interrupted. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(26), 2485–2487. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmp2003149
Disclaimer: Content is for educational and informational purposes only.