Being an ICU doctor is an important job. And I imagine it’s a difficult job.
I’ve been reading about ICU doctor burnout on twitter, from the people I follow.
In a small, small way I understand.
Many many moons ago, I took a course at a technical school about how to take care of children and adults with special needs and illnesses.
A year after I completed the course, I moved away from home with a group of friends. We got an apartment, and looked for jobs in a new city.
It was a scary and exciting time.
I got a job as a palliative care aid. I spent everyday with dying clients.
I will never forget one woman, who did die by the end of my first four months there. She seemed fine, in the beginning of the summer, but by the end of the summer, she was in a hospice. I was notified by her family that she had died.
When the summer was over, despite being offered a raise if I stayed, I went home and decided I didn’t want to spend my time with the dying anymore.
Note: There was more to that decision than I’m saying, but I don’t want to get into it all now.
I have spent time with only a handful of dying people.
ICU doctors and staff, spend everyday for years around dying people. That is the nature of their jobs, and I can understand why burnout happens. I was hard enough to watch just one person get so sick so quickly. How does anybody do it everyday, for years?
My father is sick. He was told by his cardiologist that he has 3 to 18 months to live.
When my mother was sick, my brother told me it seemed like my whole life was leading up to taking care of my mother. That was hard. Very very difficult. But I knew she was going to get better. I didn’t know what was wrong, and I had to fight to get her to see doctors sooner than waiting lists provided, but I knew I’d find somebody to diagnose and treat her.
Dad… He doesn’t actually have a diagnosis, but he’s already had 2 heart attacks, and now his heart is so damaged, that the cardiologist says nothing can be done.
And my heart is breaking. I don’t know what to do. There is nothing I can do to fix this.
I don’t want to watch somebody else die. I don’t want to watch my father die. I just don’t.
There might be a time that my father ends up in CCU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit), that’s in the same hallway my ICU is in. I’m shaking just thinking about it.
If he does I want the staff there to not be burned out. I want them emotionally able to do whatever they need to do for Dad. I don’t want them to be thinking of their own depression, anxiety and burnout.
But how? How can I help with the burnout?
Everybody needs a good work environment. It should be considered a human right. And every patient needs a doctor who is emotionally able to do the job. Burnout affects doctors, family’s, patients, and family’s of patients. It needs addressing.
As someone who left after one death. I don’t know how you do it. Burnout is so understandable.
How can the problem be fixed? How can I help? How can anybody help?
And thank you for doing what you do, despite the burnout.
Note: I have done a lot of things in my life time. If it seems I mention some thing else at some other time, it’s because I’ve done more than just what I mention.
Note #2: Please forgive any spelling mistakes. I usually write rough drafts of these things, let them sit for a few days and then go over the again. This is the rough draft. I just needed to say it, while I was thinking and feeling it.
Note #3: Thank you for reading this. If you liked it please share it, retweeted it, like it, or whatever.