Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Med School Burnout

Tonight marks the start of succos, my absolute favorite Jewish holiday. Who doesn't love a holiday that commands you to build something, gather with friends outside, dwell in a shelter that lets you see the stars, eat yummy fall food, and shake branches while praying for a rain in a totally pagen way?! Last year I spent the first days of the holiday at one of my favorite places in the world: lost in the mountains of New York, in sukkah built for 150 of my closest (and newest) friends, overlooking a beautiful lake while watching the leaves change color. Plus there was really awesome learning, and very cute goats!

What am I doing this year to top last year's experience? I am spending it at home, very much inside, studying for Friday's exam. I had some lovely offers for meals in the community, in lovely sukkahs that my friends, the local synagogues, and chabad have put up; but a) I need to study and b) it isn't the same (mostly because the weather in the South is still 100 degrees out and the farmers here are praying for the rain to stop, not start).

While I know this sacrificing of identities is not good for me, today was the first time I realized that it might be detrimental for my future patients. By sacrificing social time and religious practices I'm setting myself up for burnout. I justify it by saying that something I learn, or don't learn, now might be the difference between life and death for one of my future patients. An article published today by the Mayo clinic in the Journal of the AMA on med school burnout though makes me think twice. A synopses on the article can be found here. These types of articles reinforce my belief that medical school is one of the least healthy endeavors one could engage in. Ironic, right?

The conundrum remains that there simply are not enough hours in the day. How can I learn everything I am supposed to know, while still doing all the things I need to do to stay sane and avoid burnout? It is undoubtedly a juggling act; one without a simple solution. My guess is that I'll learn to master it just in time to graduate medical school and start residency... just in time to face a new conundrum on time management and burnout avoidance.

I promise, er suspect, that once the fall chagim (Jewish holidays) are over, there will be a little less discussion on finding balance between Jewish and medical student identities. This just tends to be the season for such guilt.

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