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Career Shift Rather Than Change: Avoiding Burnout Among Nurses and Physicians

Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Doctors are getting burned out and leaving medicine, so much so that there is a doctor shortage. The shortage is so problematic that New York University offered free medical school for future doctors. Doctors are finding themselves lost beneath a pile of bureaucratic tasks, feeling more like overpaid data entry clerks that robotically make their way through the day. Some of the doctors who have been practicing for a long time simply are not interested in learning about electronic health records (EHR), AI, or anything else technology-related. A portion of these elite members of the medical field decide to retire earlier than intended rather than adjust to the transformation that is happening.

Signs and Manifested Symptoms

These doctors experience exhaustion emotionally. They begin to feel as though their professional life has no meaning. In the data-driven industry, feelings of ineffectiveness can creep in and cause doctors to objectify their patients. The doctor’s touch becomes automated rather than comforting, and the much-needed bedside manner that was once there is gone.

Some doctors have reported physical manifestations of burnout such as headaches, issues with memory loss, consistent thoughts of quitting medicine, attention deficit, abnormal bursts of anger, extreme physical tension, and an inability to sleep.

Career Choices for Doctor and Nurses

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to keep every one of our valued doctors and nurses. Leaving the medical field behind is not necessary. The opportunity for the burned-out doctors or nurses to remain in the field that was (and we hope still is) their passion and be rejuvenated to a point of enjoying their work-life balance once again remains.

Specialty Physicians
The option to change the type of medicine practiced is always there. For example, an internal medicine doctor bogged down by administrative red tape may choose to change their specialty. Interns can switch their specialty much easier than a doctor who is already in practice, but established physicians can change their paths. It will take sacrifice, but what doctor hasn’t sacrificed before? The question to ask is wherein lies the passion?

Telemedicine
Telemedicine, where technology meets medicine, offers flexibility and a great balance of work and life for doctors and nurses. Telemedicine (also known as telehealth) is a great way to get patients more involved in their care. Two-way interactive communication takes place in real time between the physician and the patient or between a nurse and a patient for triage. This can be done through audio and video equipment or just a phone. Some telehealth platforms have the capabilities of putting interactive equipment in the patient’s home that will send the patient’s blood pressure, blood sugar, and other vitals throughout the day to the provider.

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Teaching Medicine
When practicing medicine no longer appeals to some doctors, they choose to go the route of molding the future practitioners. The doctor is no longer a part of the data grind that clinical medicine has become but can still feel the excitement of medicine and the awe they experienced the first time they held a scalpel or gave a patient the news that they were in remission. For some doctors, teaching in a residency is too close to still being “in” medicine. They may opt instead to teach undergraduate health sciences such as biology, anatomy, or physiology.

Nurses also go the route of teaching. Continuing education courses are always needed. Thousands of continuing education classes need instructors. Everything from pediatric food allergies to cancer and depression. There are courses that focus specifically on COVID-19. Some nurses may choose to teach the future certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and qualified medication aides (QMAs).

Specialty Certifications for Nurses
The opportunities for nurses to further their careers and explore other areas of medicine are abounding.

One example is wound care certification. This certification can open doors to positions in new departments such as burn units, critical care, intensive care, operating rooms, skilled nursing facilities, and post-acute physical rehabilitation. Wound care nurses are responsible for assessing and treating severe wounds in compliance with a multidisciplinary care team’s care plan. The wounds are usually complex. Patients with ostomies or continence conditions are also treated by wound care nurses. You won’t find a nurse that hasn’t treated a wound at some point in their career, but certified wound care nurses have a higher level of knowledge and expertise.

An ACRN is an AIDS certified registered nurse. These compassionate nurses provide education, therapy, and supportive intervention to their patients. Their focus is to keep their patients from any form of infections and to pool family and community resources that can support the patient in their continuum of care. ACRNs might work in a primary care clinic, at an acute care facility, as an educator within the community, or even in schools.

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A CPN is a certified pediatric nurse. CPNs practice in numerous settings and various roles. Some CPNs are direct caregivers for special needs pediatric patients in the home. There are CPN charge nurses and CPNs that choose administrative work such as advocacy and consulting.

An OCN is an oncology certified nurse. Oncology patients with a certified nurse feel confident in their care. An OCN has the qualifications need to recognize potential problems with patients and take proper action promptly. Getting a certification is personally and professionally rewarding. Not to mention, it will create a boost on the clinical ladder, which means a higher annual income.

A family nurse practitioner (FNP-BC) provides primary care to patients of all ages who are medically stable (while under the indirect supervision of a doctor). FNPs can work in clinics, physicians’ private practice offices, schools, hospitals, and virtually any ambulatory care facility. Performing most of the tasks that primary care physicians perform, they are qualified to provide care for most diseases (or refer to a specialist), treat injuries, perform health and wellness checkups on pediatric patients, manage women’s care, and manage long-term conditions and illnesses.

Don’t Change Your Career, Shift It

There are many options for nurses and doctors to ease their burnout without leaving medicine behind. To the medical professionals considering quitting, you are valued and needed.

About the Author

Heidi West is a medical content writer with years of experience covering healthcare and technology subject matter for the healthcare and medical industry. She has written extensively on medical topics such as diabetes, COVID-19 developments, wound care, telemedicine and telehealth, EMR, AI, developments in nursing, long-term care, and hospice care. She resides in the Indianapolis area with her family.

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