'Know thyself': One gastroenterologist's answer to avoiding burnout 

Ben Bradenham Jr., MD, a gastroenterologist at Gastrointestinal Specialists in Richmond, Va., joined Becker's to discuss how physician education is failing in attempts to counter burnout. 

Editor's note: This interview was edited lightly for clarity. 

Question: Where does physician education fall short?

Dr. Ben Bradenham: The identification and prevention of burnout has been an increasingly popular concept in medical education. This has manifested mostly as an effort to emphasize to medical students the importance of balance in their lives and to take care of themselves through exercise, etc. While helpful for some, I believe this effort will only go so far in preventing physicians from burning out and leaving the workforce early.

Deliberate training in time management; an emphasis on the importance of identifying and cultivating mentor/mentee relationships; and an increased emphasis on understanding what rejuvenates you as a person, both mentally and physically, are three things that I believe could be helpful in decreasing burnout.

A good mentor can save you hours of banging your head against the wall, as they have likely encountered and overcome whatever obstacle you have no answer for. Knowing oneself and being honest with oneself is arguably the most important factor in the burnout equation. I have simply never seen this articulated. Balance always seems to be the emphasis. 

The reality is that balance is very difficult to achieve as a parent working a full-time job, and becomes nearly impossible when work demands increase — the hours simply don’t add up. What is the solution? 

At any given time, you need to make deliberate choices to appropriately prioritize how you spend your time. How do you know what to prioritize? Know thyself. By identifying the things that rejuvenate you mentally as well as physically, you will be better able to keep yourself sharp and mentally present both at work and at home.

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