There is a massive media spotlight on junior doctors and their workload and training at the moment. Apparently everyone has to have their say on what are safe hours and what are not.

Consultants who worked in the era of 24hour on calls and whole weekend on calls look at the current system as potentially easier than in their day. However is it even comparable? I’m not sure we can accurately say. Expectation and shift intensity has changed along with medical care itself. The stories I hear about their “epic” on calls seem to bear no resemblance to mine, it seems they simply did a completely different job and comparisons are simply not useful.
Whether it is easier or harder, the more important point is whether doctors can cope with the current circumstances. Unfortunately the answer to that question is no. Burnout is now a major issue, and it is an issue for all of us including our patients.

What is Burnout?
Burnout is a psychological condition caused by prolonged stress leading to a deeply disillusioned state with an extreme lack of engagement and collapse of the human spirit. The symptoms of which manifest as: high emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment and low levels of personal accomplishment.

Crosssectional studies have shown that up to 50% of ICU physicians suffer burnout and similar is true for Emergency physicians and many other high stress specialties. Unfortunately this leads to a less effective workforce with high drop out rates.

The government’s battle with junior doctors has worsened an already serious problem. If we are not careful we may be generating a disillusioned, cynical and ineffective cohort of junior doctors. Let’s not forget that the term junior doctor is misleading and actually it is just all doctors who are in training to be consultants or the vast majority of the workforce.

Hopefully we as doctors can change things to prevent becoming burnt out, I am just one of many people who blog and share the ideas of positivity and happiness however I’m not sure we can do it all alone.
Society and the government need to care about whether it’s important that the medical workforce is in good health or the whole system could spinout in a cloud of tyre smoke!

Steve Young

See also:

Clarity of Mind, Creativity of Thought

The Science of Happiness