Like you, I assumed from the start that a career in radiology would be a perfect fit. I thought I would always be happy with my choice of specialty and enjoy the anticipated rewards of being a physician. I didn’t consider how over time, the field would change, my personal life would change, or what I wanted would change. Back in medical school and residency, I didn’t consider the ups and downs of life and how I would learn to adapt to each new situation in a way that again, life would feel rewarding and joyous. Yet, this rollercoaster ride ends in burnout for a growing number of radiologists. To make sure you’re not among them, take time to read the images of your life.
Feel the burnout
As yet, burnout is not something that can be detected via CT scan or MRI. Recognizing symptoms requires self-awareness and self-examination.
According to Psychology Today:
“Burnout is not a simple result of long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy of burnout can occur when you’re not in control of how you carry out your job, when you’re working toward goals that don’t resonate with you, and when you lack social support.”
The effects of burnout go beyond impeding job performance, to negatively impacting personal relationships and physical health as well.
Hopefully, you have not yet been overcome with cynicism, lethargy and depression. However – as you might advise a patient, “Don’t wait until we find a nodule on your lung, quit smoking now” – I advise you not to wait until burnout consumes you. Take steps now to ensure a healthy career and personal life.
My path to wellness
As a radiologist specializing in cancer care and radiation safety, I lectured extensively on reducing exposure to environmental toxins and initiated numerous public health and prevention programs in collaboration with physicians and administrators. Meaningful and rewarding work that suited my personality to be sure, but after a while, changes in healthcare deemed those activities as “non-reimbursable”. When politics changed, I decided to change jobs. With that, I lost my community, my sense of autonomy (an erratic schedule that was out of my control) and even some of my feeling of competence (I was reading films I hadn’t read since training). It wasn’t’ long until I stopped taking care of myself, ended up sick with pneumonia, and thought that the field I spent so much of my life training for and working in was no longer suited to me. I was seriously burned out.
Before taking any other action, I was able to ask myself what I really needed. I greatly valued stability and taking care of my family so a stable schedule was my number one priority. Luckily, I had a chairman who was willing to work with. I paid a price for that, literally, but what I gained was beyond measure. Also, I began to explore lifestyle changes – such as nutrition, stress management, physical activity, and proper sleep– in an effort to regain my health and return to a healthy balance between my work and my personal life and goals. Even my relationships improved. And, as I started to feel better, my thoughts about my role as a radiologist and my new hospital began to change. This evolved into a whole new area of passion for me.
Eventually, I became a lifestyle medicine specialist and a nationally board-certified health and wellness coach. I launched Lifestyle Health, LLC, through which I work with physicians, physicians-in-training, and the general community to promote self care, wellness and work/life balance.
I am still passionate about radiology, which I continue to practice part time. I didn’t have to give that up. But, I had to figure out what was missing for me and find a way to add that in. Pursuing lifestyle coaching has added an entirely new perspective to my life and given me the power to live with greater health, joy and authenticity in my personal and professional lives.
Reignite your fire
Take some time for self-examination. Experience my online workshop, sponsored by vRad. I’ll talk about my experience both as a coach and physician. I’ll offer you a tool to see how balanced you feel with different aspects of your life and how to start making whatever changes you desire. I’ll discuss with you evidence-based self-care concepts of lifestyle medicine that not only improve physical health, but also support resiliency, self-preservation and joy during medical training, practice and beyond.
About the Author
Stacey Funt, MD, is a part time radiologist, lifestyle medicine specialist and coach. As founder of Lifestyle Health, LLC, she is also a clinical instructor in lifestyle medicine and health coaching at Stony Brook University Medical Center Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine, and lectures extensively on self-care for physicians.