There was a time I was burnt out. Well, that’s not exactly true. There was a time that every three months I was burnt to the core. I wanted to quit. I wanted to go to nursing school. Hell, I even put in an application to Fed Ex.
Unfortunately, there was one time that my burn out led to injuring a patient.
You see, I was burning the candle from all ends. I was going through a terrible separation with a woman who had two kids I cared for and adored. I was a supervisor of a shift that was falling apart. I worked nights, went to school during the day, and had to attend meetings in the mid afternoon (peak night shift sleep hours).
I turned into the medic who would blow up about too many gloves being on the truck. Trash cans would fly across the bay floor after a mighty frustrated kick. Mop handles would shatter on the side of the ambulance like I was swinging a samurai sword. My off shift drinking was constant. My anger was out of control and would occasionally come out on a patient. My refusal numbers were rising and the end of the road was coming closer.
One morning, my partner and I were called out to a patient complaining of abdominal pain. Before the call even came in, we were in the mood that this patient was going to be a refusal. We were both exhausted from outside life and had no intention of transporting. We were a dangerous crew that had lost all interest in their job. We wanted to be anywhere except on the ambulance.
We arrived at the home of the patient and in all honesty, I barely remember the call. I am sure I talked her out of going. I probably made her feel stupid for calling 911. I probably took the anger of my personal life out on her.
The only thing I remember was waking up in the afternoon to numerous missed calls from members of our upper leadership. The patient ended up have a ruptured appendix and was rushed to surgery after another crew, an hour after we left the residence, did their job and transported the patient.
I was close to being fired. I was close to losing my license. I was having the biggest wake up call in not only my career, but my life. I hurt someone. Yes. She signed the refusal AMA form. But at what cost? And with how much encouragement?
I like to share my mistakes for others to learn from. Burn out is dangerous. Burn out hurts patients.
In the paper posted on Medium, the greatest cure for burn out is to regain the awe of your job, or life.
“If this path to burn out is, as Aldous Huxley wrote, ‘a reducing valve’ of awareness, it’s awe that helps to open us back up. Dacher Keltner, a professior of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that awe is tied directly to feeling of expansiveness, transcendence, and connection.”
I was working too much OT and my personal life was falling apart. I had to make huge changes in my life, step down from positions, say no to projects, and budget my spending so I could say no to OT shifts. I stepped down as supervisor (surprisingly, I didn’t get demoted) and transferred myself to a county known to be strict. I wanted to remind myself why I not only got into the field, but to also get back to the basics of patient care. I was not taking care of people and most of all, I was not taking care of myself.
My love for the job came with helping people. Where did my love for care go? My personal life was spiraling out of control and I was not feeding myself creatively. My tank for the awe was ran dry.
“Awe doesn’t just shift the way we think, it changes our biology. According to a 2015 study in the journal Emotion, awe, more than any other positive feeling, is linked to lower loves of a molecule called Interleukin-6, which is associated with stress and inflammation.”
The awe for the job came back when I chose to learn again. There is something to learn every shift. You just have to look for it.
Even if I haven’t taken the chance to learn about something, I enjoy creating hilarious back stories for patient’s and their family. Everyone has a story.
“Perspective allows me to see that ‘my’ world is tiny when compared to the actual world. I feel more open and energetic, and less burnt out.”
It’s all about perspective and reminding myself why I got into the job in the first place. It’s the greatest way to help someone and it’s so damn interesting.
Check out the article; “The natural cure for burnout is profound and utter awe” by Brad Stulberg on the site Medium.