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The Coworker and the Fire Log

By Daniel Foster09 Mar 2023

“Mom. Pass the *%&#@$! potatoes!” Mark yelled.

Chatter around the Thanksgiving dinner table died instantly.

And that was the moment Mark realized what the rest of us already knew: he needed to take some time off medical school before he cracked like an egg.

We all get stressed-out by our school or our jobs, but stress isn’t burnout. Picture a fire log, incinerated down to a pile of ash. It’s used up. It has nothing left to give. That’s burnout.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to recognize in yourself until you’re already drowning in it, because burnout is a creeping disease. And that makes it dangerously insidious. 
And since we take care of patients, it can become deadly. 
Unrecognized burnout can drag us down from concerned caregivers to people who ignore logic and begin to forget why we went into medicine in the first place. Consider the following scenario of burnout projection onto a patient:

Six months ago, Patient Jones was on three medications. But his diet didn’t improve, so now he’s on four and has an appointment with a nutritionist. But he didn’t keep that appointment (or the next one) so now he’s on five medications but then he couldn’t remember to take them either and now he’s headed for dialysis. If he dies, well maybe it’s his own fault… isn’t it?

No, probably not. We’re all aware of the plethora of reasons that patients may fall into these circumstances: they’re disabled and surviving on Medicare, receiving so little each month that they have to choose between buying food and buying medicine. Perhaps they can’t get to their appointments because they have to rely on others to give them rides because diabetic kidney failure robbed them of their eyesight. Or maybe dialysis just causes so much brain fog that they physically can’t remember to take their medication. 

Regardless, somewhere along the way, our compassion disintegrated. That’s how dangerous burnout is. 

Which is why this reminder-blog is about coworker burnout. Because you will notice it in others before they see it in themselves, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter whether it’s during your morning huddle, your weekly meeting, or your midnight gripe-fest in the break room: you can subtly check in with your coworkers. If a more direct approach is needed, perhaps you could mention that you’ve been thinking about so-and-so whose been struggling with burnout, so you’d like to ask the team to watch out for each other a little bit. 

As a clinician, you’re trained to look for signs of psychological disturbance in your patients. It can be harder in coworkers who have the same training as you, because they’re often aware of their tells. But the truth lies in behavior shifts. For example, if you have a person who talks about their problems a lot, but then suddenly stops, in their case, the lack of information may be the signal.

We know we’re all in this together, but that comes to mean “we’re all working together to save the patients.” We can forget that it means we are also taking care of each other. 

At Transonic, we exist to take care of patients. We continue to offer slow-selling probe sizes, knowing they’re sometimes not profitable, because we want our clients to have every tool they could possibly need. Whether you’re doing cerebrovascular, cardiovascular, or transplant surgery, our tech takes the guesswork out of the flow you need to restore. No Doppler. No palpation. No clip-occluded vessels that couldn’t be seen. Just factual blood flow, so you know you’ve made your patient safe. We give you peace of mind with your cases, so you can have a little mental energy leftover to care for yourself (and your coworkers.)

Click here to see how we can give you peace of mind, while you’re working hard to give it to everyone else.

We want to be one of your greatest medical assets, but we know that you and your coworkers are definitely ours.

Thanks for all that you do.

                Transonic Systems, Inc.

                                The Measure of Better Results