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2014-2015 RSA President
Originally Published: Common Sense May/June 2014
Emergency medicine is a specialty known for high burnout. Professional burnout is described and measured in many different ways, but it encompasses a loss of enthusiasm for work, emotional exhaustion, disparagement, depersonalization, a loss of empathy, and feeling a lack personal accomplishment. A study done in the 1990s showed that, of surveyed emergency physicians, 77-80% of physicians said that EM had met or exceeded their career expectations but 31-33% still noted that burnout was a significant problem in their work life. We have a dichotomous emotional response to our work: a love of what we do and a component of exhaustion from it. We can have large swings of daily highs and lows, or a day full of benign abdominal pains. We often present ourselves as emotionally open and able to look at all things objectively, but with burnout we can become emotionally blunted. How do we prevent this? There have been many proposals on how to prevent burnout, but fundamentally the answer is in rediscovering what drew us to EM initially and letting that continue to motivate us day to day.