Burnout can be insidious. I noticed the signs in myself today as I prepared myself to call a client regarding the findings on his dog's physical exam. The dog had been dropped off for grooming & my exam had revealed some significant progression of the dog's heart disease. I could hear the conversation playing out in my head before I picked up the phone. I was sure it would go like this:
Mr. Apathy: Hello?
Me: Hi, Mr. Apathy. This is Dr. VBB from VBB Animal hospital. I'm calling about Foxglove.
Mr. Apathy: Well, I'm at work. What do you want?
Me: As you requested at drop off, I did perform a physical exam on Foxy today and-
Mr. Apathy: Can we discuss this when I pick her up?
Me: No, Foxy needs additional diagnostics and treatments because her heart is-
Mr. Apathy: She saw a cardiologist six months ago. We already did the heart stuff.
Me: well, today she is having trouble breathing and -
Mr. Apathy: I'm not talking about this again right now. I'll discuss it at pick up.
I was so sure I would be having that conversation that I postponed making the call for probably an extra ten minutes. I got myself all worked into a frenzy internally. I'm sure I ground off some tooth enamel. However, after a few deep cleansing breaths I psyched myself up for it. I made the call.
Mr. RealGuy: Hello?
Me: Hi, Mr. RealGuy. This is Dr. VBB from -
Mr. RealGuy: Doc! How's Foxglove?
Me: I have some concerns, and -
Mr. RealGuy: is it her heart? I know, I was supposed to bring her back to the cardiologist for a recheck in December, but I got so busy and she seemed fine. Is she in trouble now? I feel terrible.
Me: well, I think her medication needs some tweaking. I'd like to go ahead and give her some extra diuretics today, but I do want her to see the cardiologist as soon as possible too.
Mr. RealGuy: I was actually planning to take her next week, but they almost always can get me in same day. I'll call them right now and see if we can go there this afternoon or tomorrow.
Me: Great. I'll have her records ready to go for you.
Mr. RealGuy: thanks doc! See you soon!
I was of course really pleased that my patient will get the specialty care she deserves. I was also really pleased that I had a nice client interaction. I was DISPLEASED by the realization that I am starting to always expect the worst. This bothers me a lot. I don't want to be one of those old and crispy burned out people!! I want to be able to think positive! Or even be like the Whether Man from The Phantom Tollbooth, who said "Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens!" But to always expect the worst - well, it's draining. Any creative tips on dealing with burnout??