Physician Burnout

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Melvin Kooner, an anthropologist who entered medical school in his mid-thirties, characterizes physicians as “tough, brilliant, knowledgeable, hardworking, and hard on themselves.” (Kooner, 1998, pg. 374) Many personal conversations with medical students, residents, and attending physicians from a variety of specialties confirm Kooner’s assessment. Doctors work hard, work long hours, deal regularly with life-and-death situations, and make substantial personal sacrifices to practice in their field. These attributes of medical practice can provide a great deal of satisfaction to the aspiring or practicing physician, but can also be a source of professional and personal distress. Burnout or the experience of long-term emotional and physical…show more content…
For example, Dr. Adrian Chan is a second-year neuropathology fellow at New York University Langone Medical Center. As an IMG from Beijing, Dr. Chan has experience with the challenges of acculturation and emigration. “Only the best of the best get to come to America” he tells me during one of our friendly conversations. He then goes on to acknowledge the fact that many Americans perceive Asians as very “polite, hard-working” and often “keep to themselves” (Personal Conversation, 2009). This observed facet of Asian culture can be a hindrance to Asian physicians who need help in an American cultural setting. Often their silence is perceived as indirectness (Piercy et al, 2005) or aloofness. In order to effectively treat physician-patients, both the hospital administration and mental health clinics should acknowledge and provide empathy for difficulties wrought by a physician-patient’s ethnic background.
“Asians do not hang out their dirty laundry”, my mother, a registered nurse, responds when asked the question, “How likely are Asian or Asian-American health professionals to seek help when dealing with burnout?”(Personal Communication, 2010). Because of this reclusive mentality shared by many older generation Asians and Asian-Americans, an appropriate approach to treatment of physicians from cultures who do not believe in the effectiveness of
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