Physician Burnout: When Did Your Flame Go Out?

By Christopher Hughey

We talk to Dr. Lara Salyer about physician burnout.

This month’s blog is by Fast Layne Solutions CEO Christopher Hughey. You can follow him on LinkedIn by clicking here.

About four years ago, Dr. Lara Salyer saw her flame go out. She realized she had simply fallen out of love with being a doctor. She had been a physician for 14 years, doing the job she had always dreamed of doing.

And now she hated it.

Not ‘lost a passion for it’ apathy.

Not ‘maybe a need a break’ fatigue.

Hated it.

In short, she wanted to break up with medicine. She began exploring other careers, other possibilities, other paths. So she let her employer know she would be moving on and gave them several months’ notice.

During her notice period, she decided to take advantage of an opportunity for some available CMEs and attended a conference on functional medicine. It was a life-changing revelation for her. Her love affair with medicine was rekindled. She pursued a certification in functional medicine and opened her own micro-practice in Wisconsin. 

If her story ended there, it would just be heart-warming anecdote of a doctor  who found a renewed sense of purpose in her career. But Dr. Salyer didn’t stop with reinventing her own medical career. She recognized that what had happened to her was happening to her colleagues all across the country, thanks to a two-fold problem:

-A broken healthcare system that is weighted against primary care doctors, especially independent ones; 

-A culture of resigned acceptance that says physician burnout is simply the price you pay for being a doctor. 

She couldn’t singlehandedly fix American healthcare, but she knew she had something valuable to add in the fight against burnout. So the same year she started her new career as the proud founder of Health Innate, a functional medicine micro-practice, she also founded Right Brain Rescue, a company dedicated to teaching doctors not just how to be better physicians, but how to be happier ones, by leveraging their creativity and increasing their resiliency.

But none of this would have been possible had she not both experienced and recognized her “my flame has gone out” moment. 

And therein lies the problem for so many doctors today: they are burned out, but they either refuse to accept it or they have resigned themselves to their fate. They have been indoctrinated into a mindset that tells them that this is simply what it means to be a physician in 21st-century America: terrible technology that almost seems designed to frustrate; torturously tedious manual processes; nights and weekends spent charting; intermediaries ranging from insurance companies to PBMs to CMS making decisions about how they should treat their patients;  overworked office staff cracking under the strain of constant ‘busywork’ and a morass of disparate, unintegrated systems; angry patients whose negative reviews reflect the realities of a system the doctor can’t control. 

And all this was before Covid-19 pour gasoline on the fire by adding a whole new set of stressors last year.

Have you had your “my flame has gone out” moment? If so, did you embrace it and set yourself on a new path like Dr. Salyer? Or are you resigned to your fate? 

Reach out to us today if you want to explore the tools and services we can add to your practice to fight the causes of burnout.

Leave your comments below or drop us a line and tell us your story. Or go to the related LinkedIn post and comment there. We’d love to hear your story. Because this problem won’t go away until we face it head-on.