By Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director
Priya Banerjee was at the end of her patience in the middle of 2021.
She had been working for her state government as a forensic pathologist, and she felt her work environment was toxic. Her mother had been hospitalized four times during the pandemic, and in December 2020, she had suffered a debilitating stroke. Banerjee's relationship with her boss, she said, was antagonistic and filled with toxicity. Her husband had to help their 7-year-old with distance learning because of COVID, and life was increasingly stressful and unpleasant.
So, Banerjee joined millions of other U.S. workers and plenty of other physicians in what has been termed The Great Resignation, and she said goodbye to her job. She said goodbye to that stress. She said goodbye to the toxicity she felt.
Luckily, she had a landing spot.
Banerjee’s burnout has been a familiar feeling to thousands of physicians during the pandemic era.
According to a Morning Consult poll of 1,000 healthcare workers taken in September 2021, 18% had quit and 12% had lost their jobs during the pandemic. That’s an astounding 30% who had left their positions since March 2020. Of those who remained, 31% had thought about leaving their jobs, including 19% who mused about leaving the medical field altogether.
“You have physicians, you have nurses, dropping out, retiring early, leaving practice, changing jobs,” Dr. Dharam Kaushik, a urologist at the University of Texas Health, San Antonio, told Morning Consult. “You’re experiencing loss of manpower in a field that was already short on manpower before the pandemic hit.”
A Medscape survey of more than 2,500 doctors that was released in October 2021 showed even more staggering results. Asked whether they were thinking about leaving their clinical practice, 22% of physicians said they had considered pursuing a nonclinical job, and of those, 58% said they would do so within the next three years. The reasons why? Thirty-four percent said it was because of burnout, and 20% said it was because they didn’t want to work so many hours.
Even before the pandemic began, some physicians felt this way. According to a white paper from Jackson Physician Search, physician satisfaction with their employer was rated as an average of 5.5 based on a scale of 0 to 10, and 61% of docs had experienced burnout, most of which was caused by their relationship with their employer and not necessarily with the work of being a doctor. A major component of that dissatisfaction was a lack of communication.
“Administrators point to many different conditions that would address physician burnout, like having better clinical support, boosting compensation, and lowering administrative burdens,” Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, CEO of Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), said in a statement. “However, far and away, two-way communication with management and administrators is cited by physicians as the most important factor in keeping them satisfied in their current position.”
Still, there’s little doubt that the COVID pandemic has affected the mental health of physicians. And it’s affected their jobs (and their desire to do those jobs).
The Atlantic had a fascinating article recently about healthcare workers, and it captured this story from an ICU nurse that told the tale of a patient who had been pressured into going to a Thanksgiving dinner and then had caught COVID. Wrote Ed Yong:
“Their lungs were so ruined that only a hand-pumped ventilation bag could supply enough oxygen. [The nurse] squeezed the bag every two seconds for 40 minutes straight to give the family time to say goodbye. Her hands cramped and blistered as the family screamed and prayed. When one of them said that a miracle might happen, Alexander found herself thinking, ‘I am the miracle. I’m the only person keeping your loved one alive.'”
Later she sent a text message to some friends that read, “Nothing like feeling strongly suicidal at a job where you’re supposed to be keeping people alive.” Like Banerjee, the nurse resigned her job shortly afterward.
By August 2021, Banerjee had enough. Motivated by her mother’s declining health and what she termed as a passive-aggressive administration, Banerjee decided to resign her position. She had spent the last six years building an expert witness and autopsy practice outside of her state job. She jumped from working for the state to working for herself.
Now, she doesn’t have to deal with vacation requests. She doesn’t have to worry about being on call. She doesn’t have to ask permission to participate in any side gigs. She can be an expert witness anywhere without a conflict of interest.
Best of all, the toxicity has been replaced by a sense of calm. All because she felt the flames of burnout and then made a positive change in her life because of it.
Said Banerjee in a message to me: “I am a better mother and wife because of it.”
If you’re a physician who’s feeling burned out, The White Coat Investor can help. With our Burnout Proof MD program, we can assist you in getting back to the place, mentally and physically, that will allow you to be at your best and to make sure you continue forward with your financial plan. End the struggle and remember why you wanted to be a doctor with Burnout Proof MD.
What I’m Reading This Week
Free as a Bird (and a Lime)
Those who live in Austin, Texas have had a love-hate relationship with electric scooters. When Lime and Bird and Lyft started placing their motorized vehicles around downtown, it was not unusual to see whole hordes of the scooters scattered across the ground, as if some high-minded antagonist had kicked them over. But they also looked pretty fun to ride.
During FinCon last September, most of the WCI crew came into town to attend the financial media conference, and we spent one night galivanting through downtown and south Austin (up and down Congress Avenue and across the famed 6th Street) on those electric scooters. Turns out, they are hellaciously fun to ride (even though two scooters I was riding died within about 15 minutes of each other).
The scooters also can be somewhat profitable.
As noted by Financial Panther, he’s made more than $5,000 by simply taking those scooters, re-charging them in his home overnight, and then placing them back out on the street the next morning.
It’s a nice little side-hustle. Though you’re probably not going to become a millionaire by becoming a Lime Juicer, you’ll gain the knowledge that you’re also contributing to the joy felt by thousands who ride them and the absolute annoyance of all the drivers on the road who have to deal with them.
Wait, Inflation Is Bad?
If you need a quick refresher on inflation and why it’s so bad (we think?), here’s what Morning Brew had to say about it. Click on that link for the knowledge (and for the Fiddler on the Roof GIF).
More NFT News, FYI
While the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021 was the entirely appropriate “vax” and Merriam-Webster went with “vaccine,” I approve of the word of the year just announced by the Collin’s Dictionary: NFT.
NFT is the acronym for non-fungible token, and according to Collins, its usage has increased by 11,000% in the past year. That’s a whole lot of people who could eventually step into the NFT investing trend—and a whole lot of people who could lose plenty of money as a result.
Money Song of the Week
While I can’t get enough of heavy metal, I also love musicals. We’ve been Broadway Series season ticket subscribers for many years, and after 18 months away from the theater, the 2021-22 season begins this month with the return of Hamilton.
Maybe it’s obvious to say, but when I first saw Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece during one of its national tours, it was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen, even with an understudy Alexander Hamilton in the role that night.
If you’re a fan of Hamilton, you might know all the lyrics by heart, but it’s worth listening to “We Know” again. Put aside for a moment the fact that it's one of the catchiest songs about blackmail you’ll probably ever hear. But it's got good financial advice as well.
As Aaron Burr, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson accuse Hamilton of engaging in speculation, where he was allegedly using government funds to pay off personal debts, he can immediately prove that he’s innocent of that charge. Yes, Hamilton admits that he’s being blackmailed by the estranged husband of the woman with whom he’s having an affair, but he also points out that he’s done nothing illegal. And he can prove it with his meticulous record-keeping.
Hamilton raps, “I may have mortally wounded my prospects but my papers are orderly/As you can see I kept a record of every check in my checking history/Check it again against your list and see consistency/I never spent a cent that wasn’t mine.”
As Goal Investor amusingly points out, there’s good advice to be taken from “We Know.”
“Lesson: Organized finances and clear records pay off.”
Tweet of the Week
The seismic-sized news from Twitter came this week when CEO Jack Dorsey resigned his job, apparently to spend more time focusing on cryptocurrency for his Square company. That led to this nice little Twitter burn.
Not surprised that Jack Dorsey will spend more time on Bitcoin. He is very familiar with products that have no revenue.
— John W. Rich (Fake Tech Exec) (@Cokedupoptions) November 30, 2021
[Editor's Note: Josh Katzowitz is the Content Director for The White Coat Investor, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and CBSSports.com. A longtime sports writer, he covers boxing for Forbes, and his work has been cited twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series. For comments, complaints, suggestions, or plaudits, email him at [email protected]]
Are you worried about burnout? Would you consider leaving your clinical job? Does the Great Resignation movement appeal to you? Comment below.