Resources & Information


Resolve to fight burnout and reclaim satisfaction in life, work

The Board recently surveyed a random sample of its licensees to get input on a range of topics related to the practice of medicine, including professional burnout. About 45 percent of survey respondents indicated they have experienced symptoms of burnout that lasted more than three months, which is consistent with national trends. More eye-opening was a related question that asked licensees with burnout to say whether they had sought assistance. Some 67 percent indicated that they did nothing to alleviate their burnout. When asked why, the most common response was that burnout is “just part of the job.”

A few years ago, I would probably have agreed with that statement. As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I worked long hours and was frequently called to the hospital at night to deliver babies. I rarely got enough sleep, didn’t have time to exercise and wasn’t eating well. I’d started noticing that my knees and back ached if I spent more than an hour or so on my feet, and I was pretty sure surgery was in my future. My blood sugar level and blood pressure were creeping up. I started to ask myself, “How do I get off this merry-go-round?”

I knew I needed to make some changes. I did not want to continue on a path to burnout and further deterioration of my physical and emotional health. So, I took three months off to self-reflect, travel and put my desires and interests first for once. I knew I had to put my own health first – advice I often gave my patients but was not, in fact, following. I got a personal trainer and started to work out regularly and make healthier meal choices. I made the difficult decision to give up obstetrics, to make it possible to get better sleep. After three months, I reopened my practice but changed the focus to women’s health and wellness, and I reduced to part time hours. With the help of my doctor, I was able to lose 50 pounds over a period of three years. Losing weight and exercising resolved the knee and back pain, returned my blood sugar and blood pressure to normal and my sleep apnea went away. Most important, I’m enjoying practicing medicine again, and I’m much happier.

I recognize that I’m fortunate that I am at a point in life where it was possible to make drastic changes to improve my life and practice. Not everyone can do that. At the same time, I want to encourage you, my colleagues, to reject the notion that burnout is inevitable and inescapable.

NCMB hosted a roundtable discussion on physician wellness in 2015, in response to rising rates of physician burnout. One of the actions the Board took after that meeting was to collect and post wellness resources, particularly resources related to identifying and addressing symptoms of burnout, on its website, as I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review them. You may just find something that inspires you to make some positive changes.

Also in 2015, NCMB joined the NC Consortium for Physician Resilience and Retention, which brings together stakeholders, including the NC Medical Society, Cone Health, the NC Physicians Health Program, and other organizations that deal with the impact of rising physician burnout. The Consortium is committed to identifying opportunities to address mental health, wellness, and burnout among medical professionals in the state. Participation in the Consortium influenced NCMB’s recent decision to stop asking licensees completing annual renewal to disclose medical conditions that might impair or limit ability to practice. NCMB hopes this change will encourage licensees who need help to obtain it, without fear of attracting Board scrutiny.

If you’re interested in viewing summary results from the recent licensee survey, you’ll find a feature by clicking here.

Be well,
Eleanor E. Greene, MD, MPH
Board President