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(February 2021) Our local ACP chapter’s Early Career Physicians are dedicated to advocating for physician well-being and helping physicians maintain work-life balance. On January 21st, 2021 our local ACP chapter held a discussion panel addressing physician well-being with guest panelists Blake Heinz, DO - Hospitalist at Avera, Matt Stanley, DO - Psychiatrist at Avera, and Jennifer Williamson, MBBS FACP - Primary Care at Monument Health. We discussed the signs and symptoms of burnout: fatigue, depersonalization, and personal lack of efficacy. Burnout can lead to depression, substance use, physicians leaving practice or cutting hours, and in its most severe form led to physician suicide. Dr. Williamson shared a personal account of a friend who ended their life during residency.
We discussed that physician burnout is not just a result of work life, but also one’s personal and home life. There is not a simple prescription to combating burnout. Every individual’s core values are different and taking an introspective analysis as well external analysis from those who know you well is key in individualizing a plan to combat burnout. During this COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Heinz shared his story of heavy burden and fatigue from the high census in his hospital as well as the emotional toll of the severity of the COVID-19 illness. He found that his personal antidote was connecting on a personal level with his patients as well as getting good sleep, exercise, and eating right. Dr. Stanley gave valuable perspective on the psychiatric effects of untreated burnout and the challenges physicians have when trying to seek help for mental health ailments. Some of these barriers such as having the South Dakota Medical Board remove questions asking if physicians received previous or current psychiatric help or treatment has been addressed.