Long hours of studying, essays waiting to be written, and the changing dynamics of healthcare careers all add up to insurmountable pressure, but health students are still being told to push through their struggle with burnout. It is time to have a conversation about it.
Burnout is one of the most prevalent dimensions of distress, is defined by the National Academy of Medicine as a syndrome characterized by high emotional exhaustion, high depersonalization, and a low sense of personal accomplishment - something healthcare students are all too familiar with.
Academic burnout can be defined as a negative emotional, physical and mental reaction to prolonged study that results in exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and reduced ability in school. Research has shown that 50 percent of medical students experience symptoms of burnout at some point in their career. Another study shows medical students are more susceptible to burnout than their non-medical peers. Burnout can have impactful consequences to a students mental health and this can influence learning patterns and life decisions, particularly if burnout continues into residency and beyond.
To make matters worse the current pandemic has put more pressure on students. Many have been faced with a set of additional challenges that includes campus closures and a quick pivot to remote learning, leading to a sense of uncertainty about their academic futures. Most importantly, students are also facing social isolation and a loss of social support because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mandatory physical distancing measures and reductions on social gatherings have left many students feeling disconnected from their home campuses where support and services are typically available.
The first step is always to recognize if you are experiencing burnout or you are at risk of it. Some common ways you can know if you have academic burnout are:
Once you realize your risks or you recognize in yourself symptoms of burnout you can do something about it. Here are some top tips that might sound easy but we offer forget about their importance:
So in conclusion, to prevent and treat burnout you need to exercise, meditate, eat and sleep. Even when cramming for an exam, sometimes it’s better for your mind and body to get the sleep you need to perform well in than it is to stay up all night studying. Talk with your fellow students and support them as well. Don’t be afraid to say you’re exhausted or that you feel like you’re experiencing burnout. Learn about the support systems your school may already have in place. Many medical schools have developed student-wellness programs that focus on making sure medical students are taking care of themselves and are learning how to deal with the stress and pressure of becoming a healthcare professional.
If you need help don’t hesitate to look for it, remember it is vital that you take care of yourself so you can take care of others.