Why I am lucky that I reached Burnout in my medical career, by Kathy Parmele, MD, FACEP

I always knew that working in emergency medicine was going to be stressful. One of the biggest reasons why I chose emergency medicine was because I enjoyed the adrenalin rush of a busy ER and preferred moving quickly through my shift, bouncing from patient to patient. I knew that stress was unavoidable, but a small amount was also enjoyable. It showed me that I was strong and able to overcome obstacles, doing good for the world.

Life became more complicated after I had children. A two physician-parent household meant that either one of us was going to need to make a change in our work schedules or we would end up hardly seeing each other or the children. Afternoon shifts made family interaction almost impossible. So, I decided to take the hit (as ER had the most flexibility) and switch to full time nights.

In the beginning, 4 night shifts a week, 11P-7A, were tolerable. I’d usually leave on time, get home reasonably early, and be awake early enough in the afternoon that I could hang out with my family, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, and then go to work. Later on, though, as the kids got older and the ER got busier my life got more complicated. I’d start leaving the ER later and later in the morning, then had to get up earlier in the afternoon to help coach soccer. Sleep deprivation started to kick in. I initially was able to readjust my schedule by Saturday, but I started sleeping in later and later on the weekends. I’d typically wake up after 11AM. Then Monday afternoons I’d need to go back to sleep in order to start the whole cycle all over again.

Monday afternoons were becoming a problem. I’d try to avoid the end of the weekend and the official restart of the work week, so I’d sip white wine on the porch prior to my afternoon nap to help “ease me into sleep.” Eventually one glass became two, which became three. I’d wake up from my nap still feeling sluggish with the tang of sauvingon blanc still on my breath. Fortunately the shifts in those early years started at 11PM, which gave my body time to metabolize the alcohol. Yet this was definitely signaling a problem.

My husband-at-the-time wanted me to cut back my hours. He could see the toll that 4 night shifts were taking on me. Yet I still  had the typical tough ER mentality. If I’d drop down to part time I’d be considered weak. I did not want to be weak.

Eventually I’d find myself crying every Monday afternoon, lamenting the end of the weekend and the beginning of another work week. I was truly burned out. I decided that I didn’t care if others thought that I was weak. I couldn’t keep up that schedule. I loved emergency medicine and didn’t want to leave my job, but I couldn’t do 4 shifts anymore.

Eventually four shifts went down to three, which went down to two a week. Even at two a week I still struggle with occasional glimpses of burnout. Yet I’m much more resilient now, and I have burnout itself to thank.

It may sound farfetched, but hear me out.

We all start out on a common path. After high school, college. After college, med school (or PA school, or nursing, etc). Then work…. until retirement. We stay on our paths until we are forced off the track. Burnout forced me off the track. I was initially the typical full-time doc with high aspirations. I was the high school valedictorian and the Harvard graduate who everyone expected would “do something great someday.” Yet I couldn’t make that work with my family and personal life. My marriage was disintegrating. I felt like a failure. I had succumbed to weakness.

When I hit the burnout wall it careened me over to a different path. This path is unique to me now. It may not be what I had originally envisioned, but it’s much more fulfilling and balanced than it was previously. I have been able to explore many different aspects of life that I didn’t have time to explore before. I dove happily into triathlon. I can honestly call myself an endurance athlete. I’m delving deeper into nutrition and home cooking.  I’m practicing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation on a regular basis and I’m trying to share these tidbits of wisdom that I’m learning with all of you. As a consequence I’m much more resilient now and I have burnout to thank.

I’ve started this website and turned onto this path because of burnout. I’ve survived the stressors thus far, and have recovered enough to begin to thrive. Now I’m here to share what I’ve learned and hope that you too have a story that you’re courageous enough to tell. It’s definitely worth telling.

If you find yourself staring at burnout in the face, don’t give up. Think of that as the beginning to the unique part of your career that defines you best. What are you going to do that helps you regain balance? When is your track going to deviate from the main track?

Katerina (Kathy) Tsapos Parmele, MD is a night-shift emergency physician, three-time Ironman finisher, 13-time marathon finisher, and proud mother of two. She is a CHEF coach and training to be a health and wellness coach. In her spare time she works on this website and cooks very large meals for her Big, Fat, Greek Family.

290,946 Replies to “Why I am lucky that I reached Burnout in my medical career, by Kathy Parmele, MD, FACEP”

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same
    comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

  2. You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation however I find this topic to be really one thing that I believe I’d by
    no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and very
    vast for me. I’m having a look forward on your subsequent post, I will attempt
    to get the grasp of it!

  3. Лечение алкогольной зависимости после запойного состояния

    Алкоголизм – это заболевание, которое требует самого тщательного
    лечения. Если алкоголик употребляет спиртные напитки ежедневно в
    течение длительного времени, то неизбежно появляются предпосылки для развития алкоголизма.

    Пагубное пристрастие может возникнуть в результате, как его сильного желания выпить, так и от
    неумения контролировать себя.
    Но бывает так, что люди не хотят лечиться, объясняя это тем, что лечение может быть достаточно длительным, а период их жизни не настолько продолжительный, чтобы
    они могли пить каждый день.
    Последствия алкогольного запоя более ощутимы,
    если он случился дома, т.е. не у работодателя.
    В таком случае лечение алкоголизма может быть назначено
    только в стационаре. В этом случае
    лечение будет проводиться в
    течение нескольких дней.

    Все это время пациент находится под
    наблюдением врачей. Если человек не
    откажется от спиртного, то ему может
    быть рекомендована принудительная госпитализация.
    При согласии пациента на лечение пациента
    направляют на обследование в наркологический стационар.

    Следующим этапом лечения является вывод из запоя.
    Проводится лечение для того, чтобы купировать абстинентный синдром.
    В этот период больной пьет большое количество жидкости, чтобы не умереть от обезвоживания.
    Если пациент пойдет на это, то через некоторое время он перейдет на поддерживающее лечение.
    Если же он не захочет лечиться, то может быть проведено принудительное лечение.

    В зависимости от того, какая была
    стадия алкоголизма, могут быть назначены капельницы или медикаментозная
    терапия. Подкожно вводятся микстуры,
    которые способствуют “выводу” из организма алкоголя.
    Также этому способствуют капельницы с химическими растворами, которые устраняют абстиненцию.

    Но при этом у пациента всегда будут наблюдаться судороги, бессонница, сонливость, нервозность и т.д.

    Лечение должно начаться как можно раньше, если этого не сделать, то последствия могут быть плачевными.
    В зависимости того, насколько сильна алкогольная
    зависимость, можно составить индивидуальную программу лечения.
    Это может быть как кодирование,
    так гипноз. В любом случае все зависит от того насколько сильное
    пристрастие имеется у пациента.

    После того, как алкоголик прошел курс лечения, его отправляют на отдых в несколько дней в стационар, чтобы дать организму
    возможность прийти в норму.

  4. Nice blog here! Additionally your web site a lot up very fast!

    What web host are you using? Can I am getting your associate link in your host?

    I desire my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  5. Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored at work so I decided to
    browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait to
    take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded
    on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, good site!

  6. You really make it seem so easy along with your presentation but I to
    find this topic to be actually something which I feel
    I might never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely wide for me.
    I am looking forward for your subsequent put
    up, I will attempt to get the hold of it!

  7. Hi, I do think this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it 😉
    I’m going to return once again since i have book-marked it.
    Money and freedom is the best way to change, may
    you be rich and continue to guide others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *