Burned Out Primary Care Doctor’s Job Satisfaction Soars through the Roof Through “Mindfulness”

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In her 11th year working in primary care, Dr. Stacey Canootskin started to notice feelings of irritability, depersonalization, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and cynicism. Clicking boxes in the EMR and sifting through stacks of meaningless home health forms that were all stamped “Urgent” led her to realize she was on the edge.

“I could feel my brain cells atrophying on a daily basis. I mean, I got early admission to medical school because of my amazing MCAT scores, my well-rounded academic background, and my excellent  interpersonal skills. Once I became an attending it became apparent that I was not working to the highest level of my abilities. Not even close.”

Her mind was drifting at work… she was either sipping wine in Tuscany, frolicking through the Colorado foothills, or bodysurfing on Maui. The wakeup call came when she was formally reprimanded for accidentally mailing hydrochlorothiazide to a patient with CKD 5 and leaving 14 progress notes unsigned over the weekend.

She knew she was burned out, so she researched online and found the solution: “Mindfulness,” or “bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.” Since then she has been meeting every single performance measure and her colleagues are asking why she smiles all the time.

“Before I practiced Mindfulness, my mind was always somewhere else. You know, like gliding through fresh powder on the ski slope or hiking through the changing Aspen trees in the fall. But fortunately I can now wrestle those pleasurable thoughts out of my mind and concentrate instead on the grayish fluorescent lighting in my cubicle. When I fill out disability forms for patients that I don’t really think are disabled, I really read the forms for a change. I breathe more deeply the BO of my less sanitary patients. I can finely tune my hearing to the intrusive overhead bells and Code Blue announcements that constantly interrupt my work. I feel so much more relaxed, I actually was able to go off my SSRI! If I knew I could have this much joy and fulfillment at work, I would have applied Mindfulness a long time ago.”

Dr. Canootskin wants to share her newfound job satisfaction with her peers and has proposed starting a Mindfulness education class, but her supervisor has yet to approve the 0.00025 FTE it would take away from patient care and paperwork.

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