By Curtis M. Henn, MD
Most of us know physicians who have experienced symptoms of burnout, physicians who have left the profession, and even physicians who have committed suicide. Indeed, many who are reading this issue of ASSH perspectives are currently experiencing burnout. It is clear this problem is widespread and pervasive, and perhaps it is just as clear there is no single intervention that will reduce the prevalence of burnout.
While I have not formally adopted techniques to combat or prevent burnout, I believe the most helpful strategy for me to cope with the stresses and challenges of our profession is talking regularly with my brothers. I have two older brothers, one a sports orthopaedic surgeon and one a cardiothoracic surgeon, and I have a twin brother who has one year left in his cardiothoracic surgery fellowship. We regularly discuss difficult cases, bad outcomes, and challenging patients. Despite being in different surgical specialties, we experience similar challenges, speak the same language, and, most importantly, we all understand both the technical and emotional aspects of our profession. We are a group of surgeons who care about each other, are not judgmental, and are not competing with each other. Therefore, we can be incredibly honest with each other about our fears, our mistakes, and our complications. We also share our successes with each other, which for the same reasons can be uplifting and gratifying. I am incredibly fortunate to have them as my support network.