I took a Faculty Position a few years after graduating from the same residency program and loved teaching. But I only loved teaching Residents, not Medical Students. And if you had asked me, I would have said that it was easier, more interesting, etc.
But I didn’t really understand that it had more to do with my feelings than their training.
I didn’t like their eagerness.
In their eagerness, I felt my own lack thereof. And it hurt.
I remember as a student, going to the office of the Female Attending who I would be working with that afternoon. She didn’t know that I was coming (which is not uncommon), and the look on her face was telling that she was not pleased. I didn’t understand at the time because I thought that this offloaded work from the Attendings (it usually doesn’t), but I think also it had to do with her burnout.
When we are burned out, we don’t usually want to face the eagerness that students bring. Many of us feel that either we have to fake it, or be seen as grumpy/bitchy/difficult, etc.
When we are burned out, we may still find our work meaningful, but we are also drowning in it, a victim of it, and often carry a feeling that we are stuck and can’t get out.
And here is this bright-eyed student, eager to learn, eager to help, eager, eager, eager.
And for me, I felt the pain of looking at this eagerness and knowing that it too would likely see the eagerness fade, feel the deep weariness, and wonder if it could keep going.
And so, I ask you, as a litmus test, what would you say to a medical student right now?
What would you say about your practice, about your career, about your day-to-day?
If you could speak honestly, what would you say?
And how would you feel? Dread? Embarrassment? Shame? Guilt?
It’s so easy to stay put in burnout. To stay on the treadmill, avoid help, avoid change because it can feel hard and even unsafe at times (what will people think?).
But if the thought of talking to someone eager to do what you do gives you a negative emotion, don’t you think it might be worth considering getting help?
The practice of medicine will always be challenging, but that doesn’t mean that all of life should stay so hard. Choose to investigate your feelings and get the help that you need.
You are too important not too.