Burnout in Healthcare: A Personal Story

In addition to writing, I’m also a physical therapist. Recently, I was honored when my friends Jenne and Andrea asked me to discuss how I use writing to fuel my physical therapy career in their group Women in Healthcare: Finding Joy After Burnout. I converted what I wrote to a blog post below. While I realize many of you aren’t healthcare providers, I believe the experiences I discussed apply to many careers and life circumstances. I hope you enjoy.

Photo description: Woman poses by a lake, arms outstretched. To the right a caption reads “Member Spotlight. Physical Therapist, Writer, and Baking Enthusiast. Check out her work at: http://www.suzannemillerwrites.com. Dr. Suzanne Miller, PT, DPT. Read below for her personal journey!!”

This is the story of how a patient saved my career.

Winter 2017 found me three years into my career as a PT and miserable. I didn’t understand why. I had my dream job and a network of supportive family and friends, yet I felt anxious at work and when I came home I had trouble letting go of those feelings. My patient satisfaction scores hit an all time low.

Then, during the subjective a patient told me he was a writer. I don’t know what it was about my expression, but something caused him to ask if I was a writer too. Without thinking I said yes.

Looking back, I don’t know why I answered this way. I’ve always enjoyed writing and as a child I aspired to be a novelist, but I gave up the dream when I realized it can be an uncertain of a career. When my patient asked this question I hadn’t written much in fifteen years.

On day 2 of the Get Clear on Your Vision Challenge Jenne and Andrea talk about recognizing the visceral sense of yes and no. When I told my patient I was a writer, I felt the visceral sense of yes for the first time in years.

I wish I could tell you I sat down at my keyboard and wrote that night, but that’s not true. It took me over a year and several missteps to get there. But in March of 2018 I finally let myself have my dream. I started taking writing seriously.

I am so glad I did.

As I wrote more and more, my patient satisfaction scores began to climb. I began to realize I wasn’t dreading work, and I was laughing more with my patients and coworkers.

Overcoming burnout took and continues to take a lot of work. In addition to writing, it’s taken support from friends, family, my husband, mental health professionals, medication, and a meditation practice. But I am glad to say I am dramatically happier than I was three years ago, and I feel I am a better physical therapist for it.

At almost every visit after I told my patient I was a writer he asked me if I had started writing again. I think he knew what it took me an additional year to figure out— to take care of others you have to first take care of yourself. Following your yes isn’t just a nice idea, it’s crucial for your happiness.

One Reply to “Burnout in Healthcare: A Personal Story”

  1. So excited that you are writing and it gives you joy. I should take the tip to start again and add dancing too !!! Love you ❤

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