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Diagnosing radiologist burnout and prescribing the right changes to cure it

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | December 02, 2016
RSNA X-Ray
- Include family in your work. Talk to your family about your success and challenges. Cultivate a balanced life and be in the moment.
- Learn how to manage your time.
- Believe in yourself and don’t internalize failure. View failure as an opportunity to learn.
- Treat everyone with respect, regardless of position.
- View negative behaviors on the part of others as symptoms of their pain; don’t take it personally.

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- Don’t compare yourself to others. Your circumstances are different than theirs.
- Exhibit joy and optimism and the world will become a friendlier place; smile!

The final speaker, Dr. David Fessell, a musculoskeletal imaging professor at the University of Michigan Health System, spoke about resiliency and gratitude.

"It brings me great joy to speak to you about this topic,” he said in his opening statement.

Fessell advocated being positive in our words. He cited research that showed there was a five to one ratio of positive to negative words in a successful marriage. This compared to a one to one ratio in marriages likely to end in divorce.

As examples of resiliency, he cited prisoner of war and Admiral James Stockdale, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving founder Candy Lightner and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. All of whom, he said, held common core beliefs, which included:

- Optimism
- Facing fear
- A moral compass to do what was right
- Cognitive and emotional flexibility
- Social support

A poor response to stress can include jumping to conclusions, tunnel vision and personalizing. For radiologists, Fessell said, this can lead to out of proportion reactions that can create stress, which makes it difficult keeping up with the demands of clinical work, administrative duties, CMEs, hospital meetings and family events. The bottom line is radiologists believe they should be able to handle anything and do it really well or else they will not be loved.

He advocated moving to a ”zone of control” rather than being ruled by fear, anger and frustration. This is characterized by paying attention to such positive and negative behaviors such as:

- How often we say I love you and thank you
- Practicing gratitude and smiling
- How much time we spend thinking about our past
- Being judgmental
- Trying again after setbacks
- Appreciation for what we have

Gratitude, Fessell said, is especially vital to preventing burnout. This he defined as a life orientation toward noticing and appreciating the positive of life. Lack of gratitude, he noted, has been associated with psychopathology, particularly depression.

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