Recovery from stress and burnout as a doctor

03 November 2021

As a doctor, you often deal with people at their worst – when they may be very anxious or even frustrated and angry. In addition, the systems are imperfect and there never seems to be enough staff, equipment, or time. When this stress is repeated day after day without adequate opportunities to replenish and recover, the inevitable outcome is burnout. Burnout is aggravated by moral injury when resource limitations or system restrictions result in compromised or inadequate care being provided. So, what is needed to recover and heal after repeated exposure to a stressful environment (such as the current pandemic)? You may need to take time off work – even a prolonged period, to fully recover. The following list is a toolkit for both recovery and prevention. Applying these interventions into your life will not only help you to recover, but also help you to thrive.

1. Self-awareness

2. Self-compassion

3. Rest and refuel

4. Physical, mental and spiritual health

5. Revisiting values

6. Relationships with family and friends

7. Broad interests outside medicine

8. Professional development and personal growth

9. Teamwork and support from colleagues

10. Compassionate practice

It may not be possible to do all these things all the time, and self-compassion is important when putting this into practice. Acknowledge what you have achieved and what changes you have made and congratulate yourself.

Kay Dunkley
AMA Victoria Coordinator of Doctor Wellbeing


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