Other Work That Matters: Service, Burnout and Breaks

When you are committed to the work of making communities, or people’s lives, better, there’s a whole additional dimension that comes with burn out: guilt.  Guilt at not being able to do enough, not being able to work hard enough, not being able to give the more more more more that seems to be demanded, especially when your organization is cutting budgets and making those charming pronouncements about “doing more with less.”

This article from the Guardian newspaper in Great Britain provides an amazing first-person account of a woman fighting exactly that battle as  a medical professional.  But I think her perspective should be pretty illuminating, regardless of whether you work in medicine, or in the UK:

We are all told we have a professional obligation to seek help if we’re not coping; the scary truth is I didn’t notice. I just felt enormous guilt that I was struggling with the ever-increasing demands. Now I can see that I was pouring more and more of myself into work and losing perspective…..

The paperwork had started to feel like Harry Potter’s invitations to Hogwarts; letters flowing down the corridors, seeping under the window frames. They threatened to drown us all in demands to chase results, deliver diagnoses, organise referrals, or tell us there was nothing more that could be offered.


I don’t know what’s going to happen with the medical system in the UK, but I do know that sometimes we have to tell the truth when the system we are in is asking for too much, and that we have to do it publicly..  I’m grateful to Dr. Buchan for taking that stand.

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