The burnout of health professionals is now a problem of great proportions, as patients now feel the change, seeing the impact on the care they receive.
The pressure you feel as doctors, especially in the last two years, is great. The practice of medicine once satisfied you, made you happy, but now it seems like a burden. But is it only due to burnout?
At this point, one more factor should be mentioned that can significantly affect your mental state. This term could be defined as "moral injury", a feeling that we feel when our moral code is violated.
It can happen when you witness an act of atrocity or when you are the ones who commit an act that goes against your moral beliefs.
For doctors, 'moral damage' often occurs when they are forced to sacrifice the well-being of patients in exchange for efficiency or profit. For example, the fact that it can be asked of a doctor to see a large number of patients daily, reducing the quality of care, or the pressure he may suffer, to prescribe tests and treatments, virtually unnecessary.
In these cases, when a doctor is unable to observe the moral standards that characterize him, we can speak of this feeling, described as "moral damage".
Moral "injury" is a term completely different from burnout, as it is not caused by stress or exhaustion. It is a type of mental "damage" that can lead to depression, and anxiety.
In this case, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional, who can help you in combating these emotions, but also adopting a healthy treatment of the situation.
As a doctor, you have taken an important oath of allegiance, to always do the best for your patients. However, sometimes, what you consider the best for the patient, is contrary to labor policies, written and unwritten.
Due to this, you often feel trapped, while at the same time the feeling of frustration overwhelms you, as you observe the behavior of your colleagues.
When this happens, it is important to identify the core values that cause this discrepancy. Is it possible to discuss it with your supervisor in order to find a solution?
It is also necessary to devote some time to yourself, as burnout is something that hinders your ability to make clear decisions. If you find yourself in this position, try to redefine your purpose and values.
You have followed the profession of medicine to offer help and care to the sick. Of course, this does not always happen as you wish when you follow commands. Sometimes, you have to go against them.
Most importantly, trust your judgment. If you feel something is wrong- it probably is.
Being a doctor is not just about science and technical skills. It is also about connecting with patients on a human level, which requires empathy and competence in communication.
Unfortunately, the current pace of health systems often leaves no room for these things. Overworked health professionals and understaffed departments focus on performance rather than the quality of care offered.
This must change. The human factor should once again take center stage. Only then, doctors will be able to provide the kind of care their patients deserve.
Knowledge is power, and once people know how simple lifestyle changes can create such profound results, they will have the power to make meaningful changes in their lives.
As doctors, you can still apply the following:
- Identify your values and what led you to this feeling of disappointment.
- Seek support from others who understand what you are going through.
- Take care of yourself to reduce stress and tension.
- Invest in things that please you at work or beyond.
With time, effort, and support, you can fight negative emotions and move on.
However, ultimately the "cure" for moral injury depends on health care leaders and people who have the power to change the policy of the system.
We need strong leaders with the charisma and perseverance to drive radical change in healthcare systems…