Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Professional Burnout

Although I've been retired from medicine for more than a decade, I still read the literature of my specialty, including some very interesting thoughts published recently by a valued colleague writing on burn-out among physicians in training. It's interesting that this phenomenon is observed in medical students and practitioners alike. How often? Up to 50% across all stages of education and practice.

I still remember sitting at my desk in the medical school fraternity house at 2 AM, studying my gross anatomy book, trying (not very successfully) to commit some of the material to memory. Cat-a-corner from me, through the windows I saw Jerry doing the same thing. Soon I heard his book slam shut, his footsteps thump down the stairs, and the front door close (not very quietly). He was gone for two days, and when he came back he wore a Navy uniform. What he did is one example of what I and others in medical school faced and how some of them react.

What does this have to do with writing? I'm a member of several writers-only Facebook groups, and recently I read a post by a mid-list writer of Christian fiction who essentially said, "I give up." I have no idea of all that was in play here. He said the joy was gone, there was no impetus to write. Perhaps it was difficulties getting a publishing contract (eight or nine publishers have shut down their Christian fiction lines in the past year), perhaps the time and effort a writer has to spend on marketing and building their "platform," maybe other factors. Of course, the door is always open for a writer to "indie" publish their work, but this is unknown territory and many of us don't like to venture there.

I'm sure burn-out occurs in other professions and situations as well as the two I've noted. Perhaps it has to do with the reasons one has chosen a career path to begin with. Maybe things have changed since the person has started down that road. How would you suggest putting an end to the "drop-out due to burn-out" situation? I'd really like to hear what you have to say.

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Paula said...

I've had a burnout or two. But I didn't get to choose my job! I had to get a job so my husband could get a masters and. Doctorate. I only had a few possibilities. My first was managing, shift leader, of a fast food restaurant! Hard hard work, training was shoving a manual in my face and told to study on my time off. Workers that couldn't give a care, so I ended up finishing their jobs til 3:00 a.m. My last was head of a photo department for a chain. To the managers the answer was the bottom line but corporate wanted us to serve the customers. Again, too much work for the employees to do and the lazy ones got a pass! I'm glad I'm retired! So glad to be out of the ratrace . I wish I could have chosen my job! But I tried to do the best I could in my Vocation! That's all God requires of us: to show His Grace wherever we are! And look to Him to get us through! He will lead you! He led me from one job to another. But circumstances changed around me! He still kept me through it all! Just one story!

Richard Mabry said...

Paula, thanks for sharing your story--and your motivation. Glad circumstances changed, and that you kept your focus.

Elise Griffith said...

We're Christians, yet we're also human beings in each stage of life. As humans, we need to feel the work we're doing has purpose. Value. Burn out comes when we feel like none of it matters. Fatigue plays a role; just taking a little time off can help. Alternately, a short vacation isn't always enough. If you can have an outlet of some kind--volunteering, carving time for a hobby you love, regular "get togethers" with friends or loved ones--it can tide you through those weeks you want to quit. Prayer is powerful, even when the silence from heaven seems deafening. We don't always like God's answers. And there are times when God IS closing a door. Often it's just a low ebb in the tide. I'm told it's wrong to do so, but I ask for a clear sign. Then I wait.

Elise Griffith said...

Just to add... I spent the last decade of my life in a sort of holding pattern. No map. No direction. I waited. Then, recently, change came all at once. It's like the first warm, windy day of spring after a long, damp winter. A lot of changes. I'm entering a new season of life with no idea what to expect, and it reminds me of an old Southern saying: "It's good to keep your expectations low."

Could it be that burn out comes from expecting too much? Of ourselves? Of our jobs? Or our situations?

Richard Mabry said...

Elise, thanks for your comments. I don't think any of us has the answer, but I do know from experience that God can use our worst experiences to prepare us for His service. Perhaps that's what's going on in your life right now.