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Season 3 | Episode 1 bonus content

One Thing Today: Pajama Time

What is one thing you can do today to reduce burnout in your life?

December 20, 2022 | 10 minutes

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In this bonus episode, Dr. Maria Dahl shares her own experience with our host Callie Chamberlain, including how she found “joy in practice” to beat burnout and offers tips we can all use.

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Speaker 1: Hi everyone, I'm Callie Chamberlain. Welcome to our bonus episode. In our longer episodes, there's a lot of content, a lot of information and the bonus episodes are meant to say, okay, so what? What is the one thing that I can do today to address whatever topic we spoke about before? Last week we spoke about burnout and quiet quitting. We talked a lot about what that is, why it feels so important in a moment like [00:00:30] now, and how that's influencing culture, society, and starting to change a little bit of how employers and employees relate to each other. So we spoke with Amy Carto, who is an employee assistance program manager with Optum Behavioral Health. If you haven't listened to the episode, I highly encourage you to go back and listen to it. And today we're gonna be thinking about how do we condense that down into one thing we can do as we go into the holiday season. I think this conversation is even more relevant than it might be at other points in time, at least for me because [00:01:00] we have R S V and flu season. Plus, there is financial considerations, especially with inflation, traveling holidays, gift giving, family time, and then just from a professional perspective, it's a lot of looking back to reflect on the year and also planning for the next year. We'll also going through year end reviews and providing feedback on things. So there's just a lot of opportunity to feel overwhelmed.

Speaker 1: Today we're gonna speak with Dr. Maria dod. [00:01:30] She is a doctor who herself has dealt with burnout and has some insights into how she helps to manage that situation for her. And she is the market chief medical officer with United Health Group. She's got a lot of great experience to share. I hope this episode is as timely for you as it was for me. Let's listen in. Dr. Maria Doll, thank you so much for being here and joining me today. Today we're talking about burnout. I'm just curious from your perspective, what you're seeing, what you're learning, [00:02:00] what you're thinking about during this time.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I wanted to start, uh, with a story of what a typical day in practice used to be like. And this is going back about 15 years. I'm remembering the pit in my stomach on Sunday night, the pit that was, I've gotta get so many refills done. I've gotta get so many lab results answered on a Sunday night on the, on the computer before I start all over again on Monday. And then on Monday I realize I have a [00:02:30] seven o'clock meeting at the hospital. So I go for that. I have three patients to round on in the hospital that may, I may have admitted over the weekend or delivered the baby and then it's off to clinic, seen as many patients as I possibly could (laugh), and then suddenly it's five o'clock or six o'clock and you realize that you haven't done any of your charting.

Speaker 2: After that, I would go home and have dinner, uh, put kids to bed and then there was something that we called pajama time. It's more [00:03:00] commonly known now actually, uh, with the more recognition of burnout. But pajama time for me was when I did all my charting, couple of hours of charting in the evening, uh, because I couldn't get it done during the day and then it was to bed and start over again. So that was just sort of a typical day and it was early in my practice, but it was the beginning of what would become burnout for me.

Speaker 1: I'm thinking about the pandemic and how [00:03:30] much I have read about the impact that it has to our frontline clinicians and care professionals. But what I'm hearing from you is that this is also just a part of maybe what the routine has been daily for people even before the pandemic. And so it's been building.

Speaker 2: Yeah, definitely. It's pre pandemic and it's insidious Callie. What really struck me is how adaptable I was, how resilient and adaptable I was until I wasn't anymore. And when I broke, it sort of became a self-fulfilling [00:04:00] prophecy. It got harder and harder and the burnout got worse and worse.

Speaker 1: Can you tell us a little bit about your own experience recognizing that breakdown and then how you were able to navigate forward?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so something of a miracle happened. Basically, I was at the end of my burnout and my husband was offered a job, it was a relocation to be closer to family and I ended up getting this really amazing job making [00:04:30] house calls, geriatric house calls for one of the major payers in the area. It was the biggest miracle and the biggest gift that I could have had because it meant that I went in to see people had plenty of time to see them and do all the things that were rewarding in family medicine. Yeah,

Speaker 1: And what I'm hearing you say too is almost like a realigning and sort of taking yourself out of a system that had so many requirements to get you closer to something that maybe that's why you entered [00:05:00] the profession was to spend time with people and to be able to provide a different level of care.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that before we moved. I did access the e AAP program, which is Employee Assistance Program. Most companies have one. They're usually free of cost, and it was one of the best things I ever did. So if anyone's listening and wondering what their first step might be, I would recommend getting in touch with the employee assistance program.

Speaker 1: That's great. [00:05:30] Cuz I was just gonna ask you, what would your recommendations be for other folks who are listening?

Speaker 2: Well, again, there's all those self-care things you can do, but you can't yoga your way out of it. Yes, right. Other than E a P, what I would really like to highlight is that places like United Health Group are taking this very seriously. There's something called the Burnout Coalition at United. It started as a movement just over a year ago, or just under a year ago perhaps. [00:06:00] And it's quickly picking up momentum and catching the attention of most senior leadership and support. The Burnout Coalition is actually going to be putting forth some recommendations and a pilot for making changes on a system basis. So there's that. And then there's the other things like there's prayer and meditation rooms that are available in some of the clinics now. There's also mindfulness meditation that you can sign up for and do virtually. So there's all these things [00:06:30] that United's doing now, recognizing what's going on and trying to make a difference and make changes systemically.

Speaker 2: If you're out there listening and experiencing some of the symptoms where you know, you might not have as much interest in regular activities or what you used to have interest in if work is becoming a Sunday night, not in your stomach, all of those things that I would really recommend talking to somebody and getting some professional help if at all possible. I'm here to talk [00:07:00] about the stigma too. I'd just like to share that it's hard to talk about some of these things anyway, but particularly as a physician in a role such as mine, to be able to talk about getting help when you need it and being able to make some adjustments for your work and your life balance.

Speaker 1: I really love that conversation with Dr. Doll and her one thing being cultivating joy. This is something that I think a lot about. One of [00:07:30] my favorite authors, Adrian Murray Brown, writes a lot about this and her question is always like, how do we make this pleasurable? How do we make this fun? And I think that that's a really interesting question to hold in light of some of the work and the challenges that we're all facing, especially as it relates to health. So for Dr. Doll, it was finding a role that allowed her to focus on spending one-on-one time with patients, which was really important to her and helped her feel like her effort was really going somewhere by directly seeing the impact of of the work that she was doing. [00:08:00] For me, I think it's something similar actually, in being a Bert doula and a death doula and working with people at the beginning of their lives and at the end of their lives.

Speaker 1: It puts into context for me why the work I do at OPT is so important because being at that individual level, you start to see up close where the cracks are in the healthcare industry. And that gives me a very interesting perspective when I come into work about how I feel like we can be more compassionate, how I feel like we can be more human in the ways that we show [00:08:30] up within the four walls of a hospital or a doctor's office to interact with people in this very meaningful, beautiful way. So for you, I'm always hear wondering what your way is that you're gonna cultivate joy. It might be thinking about finding a job that matches your values or letting you express skills that you've discovered. It might also be taking breaks like we heard from Dr. Doll and from Clayton and Amy last week.

Speaker 1: It's a lot about taking the pressure off of yourself to perform and produce constantly. [00:09:00] Even Olympic athletes have to rest. And so it shouldn't be something that we feel guilty about or feel shame about doing. So finding the thing that fills your cut back up when you find that a lot of things in your life are draining it out is so important. And something that I'm always reminded of is that you can't give what you don't have. And so if you are doing that, at least for me, one of the ways I think about that is taking from my future self to give to somebody something that I don't have in the moment. And that reframing helps me to think differently about how [00:09:30] I'm spending my time and making sure that I am joyful, that I am healthy, that I am happy, and I'm able to fully show up in a moment. So thank you for being here again, and I'm really excited to talk with you next week where we dig into another relationship that people are re-examining during this time. But instead of work, it's about alcohol. So come check it out to learn all about what it means to be sober, curious, and how it's changing the conversation around drinking in America. I'll talk to you then.