Stop Physician Burnout - The Lightworker's Dilemma

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician-burnout-lightworker-social-determinants-of-health-dike-drummondBurnout Has its Roots in a Choice You Made a Long Time Ago ... You Chose to Be a Lightworker

Physicians, NP's, PA's, Nurses, MA's ... anyone who touches patients in the course of their job ... we are a Tribe of Lightworkers -- and that has consequences.

This is Blog Post #283

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Remember back when you decided to go to medical school?

Lightworker_ForkRemember that fork in the road? 

You could apply to medical school. OR you could do literally anything else.

You looked in the mirror and recognized you were not like a lot of your friends in school.

  • You are smart, quick and enjoy challenges.
  • You had really good grades and knew you could work harder than almost anyone else.
  • As you contemplated the challenge of medical school, you felt you've got what it takes.
  • And you felt called to make a difference; to be a helper and  healer.
  • You knew this was an extraordinary choice, because so few people came with you to a career in medicine.
  • You hoped this choice would enable you to have an extraordinary life.

You chose to be a LIGHTWORKER and here we are

From that choice point forward, you allied your professional life with the forces of LIGHT in the universe, as we battle specific forces of darkness:

  • Illness
  • Suffering
  • Death and dying
  • and family member's crazed attempts to deal with those things.

No matter what stage of your career you are in now, we can agree the choice to become a doctor had a life-long series of unintended consequences. We had only a small understanding of what was in store for us. 

In this blog post let me show you
1) A deeper understanding of some of the most difficult aspects of being a doctor 
2) And six of our most popular tools to maintain your energy, faith and empathy when things get tough.


stop-physician-burnout-training-lightworker-resilience-dike-drummondOpt-220WBack where this all began ... you made your decision as a wide eyed,  innocent, rosy cheeked babe (remember?) ... you may have thought you were just making a career choice.

Your decision was influenced by a lot of discreet factors ... grades, family expectations, what you thought it would be like to live the life of a doctor ... and earn a physician's salary.

At a deeper level, something else happened at that decision point ... something with permanent consequences for you and your family.

When you chose to become a physician, you also pledged your entire professional life to  battling the forces of darkness in this universe.

We marshal the forces of LIGHT to help our patients cope ... all the time. We strive to cure when possible - to comfort when we cannot cure. We are helpers in the darkest moments of people's lives. That die was cast years ago with your decision to become a doctor. 

lightworker-physician-burnout-prevention-the-happy-md-opt220WYou ARE a Lightworker

That Has Significant Personal Consequences

On one level, this doctor thing is a simple career choice with a linear set of tasks.

  • You will go to school learn and practice the technical aspects of your craft and about 30,000 new words
  • You will graduate from medical school, residency, fellowship, board certification exams
  • You will set up a practice, put down roots and your patients will love you - or at least trust and respect you

AND at the same time, in the moments no one else can witness

  • You will be traumatized along the way
  • Be incredibly vulnerable to burnout
  • Incur double the risk of suicide compared to the non-physician population

The stress of the practice of medicine, of the day to day reality of being a Lightworker, is one of the inescapable core causes of burnout.

Most of the time we can cope, handle it, soldier on, get back in the saddle, maintain, persevere and keep going. And there are other times too. physician-burnout-treatment-lightworker-recovery-dike-drummond-Opt-220W

  • Sometimes the forces of darkness are unexpected and overwhelming - they come rushing in and threaten to knock us out cold.
  • Sometimes they represent such tidal wave of darkness, we know we should not be the only ones dealing with magnitude of the onslaught.
  • Sometimes they have deep roots in society's failings and unaddressed public health crises. Gun violence, poverty, homelessness and opioids.
  • Yet we are often one of the first helpers in the front lines of the battlefield.

In 2018, Elizabeth Métraux published a a stunning article about doctor's struggle to maintain a connection with the forces of light.
Rarely does a writer capture the full experience of facing the tsunami like this.

I consider this a MUST READ for all doctors, med students and residents.

Even though you may never experience this level of overwhelm in your career, it is possible that it will happen at some time. Each of us needs to be aware for your own self protection and to reconnect with empathy for our colleagues who put themselves in the line of fire every day.


"We can’t fix the problem of physician burnout until we address the problem of American neglect"

By Elizabeth Metraux

Six Lightworker Recharge Tools

Here are six of our most popular recharge and refocus tools for Lightworkers like you.

The Ideal Practice Description Process
So you are always building a more Ideal Practice

The Schedule HACK for weekly Life Balance

The Treasure Hunt when you really want to dial in to the good things that also happen during a day with patients

Why Resilience is Never Enough all by itself

Seven ways to step out of Your Whirlwind

The simplest way to prevent physician burnout


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