SN//Connect Presents:

The Message from Leading Voices in Cancer Care — Don’t Lose Yourself in Caring for Your Patients

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February 25, 2021

Focusing on your own health is essential

  • As many as half of physicians experience burnout and this number is expected to increase
  • Our training emphasizes putting our patients’ needs ahead of our own
  • Therapy and other forms of self-care can help you be a better provider for your patients
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Physician burnout is real. The mental and physical exhaustion that characterizes this condition affects up to half of doctors, and it can have both professional and personal implications. Even in times of great duress, like the COVID-19 pandemic, our instinct is to put patients first, and we may fail to recognize our own needs as a result.

“Because we’re trained to take care of other people and put their needs ahead of ours, sometimes we don’t realize that we ourselves need help,” Dr. Robert Orlowski, chairman, ad interim, director of myeloma, and professor of medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet Connect.

Physicians shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to take time off, adds Dr. Natalie Callander, hematologist-oncologist at UW Health. “Everybody needs to have a little bit of recharging.”

Rather than bottling up unpleasant feelings, get help, urges Dr. Nina Shah, hematologist at UCSF Health’s Hematology and Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic. She stresses that seeing a therapist is not a sign of weakness. In fact, the opposite is true.

“I think that it’s a sign of strength, actually, to consider getting help because it allows you to see things about yourself that you might not realize might be preventing you from being your best self,” she says. “I would really advocate people consider talking to somebody if they ever feel lonely or isolated…because it’s really good to talk things out, and sometimes you just need someone to listen.”