Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being

Burnout, Substance Use & Teamwork

September 23, 2021 Washington State University Health Sciences Season 1 Episode 2
Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being
Burnout, Substance Use & Teamwork
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Taylor has seen a lot in his decades of experience as a family physician. He’s also learned a lot along the way about why the job can burn people out, and how to prevent that from happening in the first place. And if you find yourself getting burnt out? Dr. Taylor has some wisdom to share in that category too. Hear from him in this episode about what works best with managing a job in such a stressful environment.

Additional Information:

“Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being" is a podcast resource developed by a team of interprofessional education researchers from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane. They’re promoting well-being among students, faculty, and healthcare professionals during challenging times. Funding is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The Interprofessional Education Research team wishes to thank the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this project:

• Dr. Barb Richardson, nurse, educator, and interprofessional champion;

• Cameron Cupp, creator of the “Finding Joy” musical score and current enrollee at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine;

• Washington State University staff from Marketing and Communications, Financial Services, and the Collaboration for Interprofessional Health Education Research and Scholarship; and

• Claire Martin-Tellis, Executive Producer, and Solen Aref, student intern, who developed the first five episodes of the “Finding Joy” podcast.

This episode of “Finding Joy” was produced by Doug Nadvornick, Program Director, Spokane Public Radio.

If you would like to reach out, please contact our team by sending an email to: We also encourage you to visit our podcast blog as well as our team's website at:

Finding Joy
Episode 2 transcript
Narrator 0:00

Welcome to finding joy, where we take a dive into the lives of doctors, nurses, medical students and other professionals as they combat the difficulties of the job. In a job as important as theirs stress and burnout can easily build up, which is why it's so important to find balance through alleviation methods. Here's how some medical professionals combat everything, and have found balance through it all. All while finding joy. On this episode, you'll meet Dr. Kevin Taylor, who has been in the medical industry for decades, and hear some of his wisdom when it comes to mental health, burnout and what it means to have a life outside of work.

Dr. Taylor, MD 0:42

I'm Dr. Kevin Taylor, and I'm a family physician, have been for many years. I currently work at Lord's Health, which is a small Catholic Hospital in Pasco Washington. We are involved with medical students from Washington State University and Pacific Northwest University. As we all probably know, as well, mental health, depression, substance use is somewhat, too significantly higher in medical and dental professionals, then it is in the general population. So I think that speaks also to the fact it's probably not addressed, or made available enough to medical professionals.

Narrator 1:21

Dr. Taylor has seen his fair share of conversations when it comes to the difficulties of the job. But there's one part of that conversation he still believes is missing.

Dr. Taylor, MD 1:32

Yeah, do we discuss our personal mental health day to day in the job? I think there's a common tendency in amongst our close colleagues to discuss difficult patient cases, or patient cases we found to be particularly stressful without disclosing personal healthcare information, we say, "Oh, I saw a patient today and they had XYZ and all they had this bad attitude, and they were rude and harsh. And, boy, it was tough to deal with this. And boy, it was really a stressful encounter." There's a common tendency to discuss things in that way, which has some value. But there is, I think, somewhat extreme tendency to not discuss things if "Oh, I'm getting depressed, I'm having a harder and harder time to cope." I don't want to disclose that to my partners, they'll think I'm weak or they think I'm not succeeding, or they'll not trust me to take call for them. I think there's a real tendency to bury that if I feel like I'm starting to implode or not do well, or succumb to a chemical addiction even. 

Narrator 2:34

Recently, things have gotten even more stressful for doctors everywhere. COVID-19 and electronic medical records have only added to the reason that mental health wellness is vital to ensure joy in the workplace.

Dr. Taylor, MD 2:50

Of course, we all experienced the day to day pressures of medical care, taking care of patients worried about, "What if I make a mistake? What if I don't make the right diagnosis? What if I miss a diagnosis and I harm a patient or I'm sued?" That has been ongoing for decades and that's not likely to go away anytime soon. In recent years, there has been added stress leading to burnout regarding electronic medical records, and closely tied to that, our increased regulatory and monitoring demands, partly for the federal government, some insurance companies, "Are you measuring this? Are you doing that? Are you doing colonoscopies? Give us your mammogram rate", you know, "are you doing this? Are you doing that? Show us your rates! Prove you're doing this, prove doing that!" And it's and that has an at the same time you have to document it well, electronic medical record, we didn't document that you did it, you didn't document it. So there's been a tremendous pressure to, "Oh, I have to give it all electronic medical record." And maybe I'm not a great typist, or maybe I'm having trouble getting my macro texts together. And at the same time, I've got to, you know, check the right boxes and and make sure I label things in the right space. So it's counted, you know, so it looks like I'm a good doc. And then, of course add to that COVID crisis, right. And Selena and I mentioned that here a few minutes ago. There's the pressure of me facing patients that might have COVID. You know, "what if I get COVID? What if I miss someone's COVID? How do I take care of this COVID patients are very sick in front of me?" If I'm an intensivist, or in the hospital, while I'm taking care of COVID patients a lot and maybe they're dying, I have to talk to the patients with their because they're their family members dying of COVID. And that adds to a lot of stress. And then I think something we all face, obviously with the COVID crisis is the separation. You know, the six feet social distancing and masking and you can't touch, don't hug and so that removes a one tool that we can use to show empathy, compassion, to share each other to show we care is shaking hands or a gentle hug and oh, can't do that not COVID. So COVID is brought to the fore a lot of those issues as well isolation, fear of the disease, and so on. So I think it's all those things combined. And of course, some people are wrapped up in some individual issues such as maybe marital conflict, maybe trouble with a troublesome teenager. I mentioned substance abuse a time or two. What about people that have don't get exercise because they're working 12-14 hours a day. Other stressful things, maybe I'm not eating well, because I'm working too hard in ICU is a doctor. And I, you know, exist on caffeine, those kinds of things. So there are a lot of those small things that added up aren't so small.

Narrator 5:52

Dr. Taylor's years of experience has taught him to always go back to the basics when things get stressful at work. The basics are the basics for a reason, after all.

Dr. Taylor, MD 6:03

What what do I do to incorporate joy or prevent burnout? I think I'd like to address this at two or three levels. I think it's really important to not forget the basics. And the basics are always the basics. But trying to get plenty of rest. If I'm overtired, only getting by on three or four hours of sleep a night, I'm not going to be any good to anybody and I will get burnt out. So plenty of rest is helpful. Trying to eat well. Try getting a little bit of exercise, you don't have to become a triathlon athlete. But taking the stairs instead of the elevator, you know, walking further out in the parking lot instead of you know, as close as I can get. A few simple things of exercise are extremely helpful.

Narrator 6:52

Dr. Taylor also credits his relationship with staff and coworkers for the ease of his workday. Here's why good workplace relationships are so important.

Dr. Taylor, MD 7:04

Also, it's really helpful. I think, if and this is not in any particular order, it's really helpful if we team up with our, the people we work most closely with. I'm a family doc. So I have an ambulatory specialty. I have a clinic manager, I have receptionist, I have referral specialists, we have a nurse navigator. And we have a pharmacist we work with in our clinic, and of course, our nursing personnel, I need to team up well with them and spend time investing in them a relationship and that don't necessarily mean buddy buddy or a good friend relationship, but a healthy professional relationship. Because if I spend time getting to know them, knowing where they're coming from respecting them, honoring their work, communicating well with them, they'll serve me well and will be an effective team. On the other hand, if I allow my frustrations to build up, if I show my impatience, if Gee, I'm tired, I'm going to snap at them, then very soon, I've alienated them. They're not working well with me. They're afraid to talk to me, we don't communicate well, things break down. And that's one more element of strife that leads to burnout. That's a that's a really big one. And I would have to say that over and over medicine is a team sport. And if I am an effective team member, maybe they are maybe the team lead, or maybe the captain of the team. But if I, if I'm a good team member, then the team will work better well together. And that makes a huge difference in terms of burnout.

Narrator 8:41

And outside of work, Dr. Taylor combats the stresses of the job by spending quality time doing what brings him joy, being with his family and attending to his spiritual life.

Dr. Taylor, MD 8:53

Another thing that may seem inherently obvious is attending to my home life. I'm married, my kids are grown and gone, of course, but I have grandchildren. There are many physicians have young children. If things aren't right at home, then I'm gonna have a much tougher time coping on the job, and my burnout will happen much more easily. So I need to prioritize time with my spouse, time with kids. Make sure that those around me whom I love who are in my home, they know I care about them. They know that I value them. And then I show I'm prioritizing some time with them and making quality time with them. And has to be some quantity as well. It can't be just quality time has to be some quality and some quantity time. And you'll never lose as a physician if you prioritize that time. That is so essential. If my home is happy, it's much easier for me to be happy on the job. Also, I found myself it's extremely helpful. To spend time and attend to my spiritual wellness. So I spend time on things that are spiritually meaningful to me. I happen to be a Christ follower, I go to church, I spend time with other people and spend some time in prayer, worshiping in that way. I realized we all have different venues that that we think are meaningful. But attending to spiritual health is very real. I think as a family physician, I have, for many years, I have come to appreciate more and more, that we are multi faceted individuals, you know, we have mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and it's all a part of a social health. And we need to attend to those different parts of us. And if we neglect one part, the other parts aren't quite as healthy, we don't do quite as well. So attending to things that are spiritually meaningful to us, has great meaning. That there's good empiric data actually, that people that spend time attending to spiritual and religious activities actually have less depression, so that I didn't make that up that's empirically proven. Something else you haven't touched on would be, "how do we deal with a really bad day?" Because it happens, life happens, right? We have a day when Oh, we've had some, maybe a couple of really difficult patient encounters, maybe one or two patients have chewed us out or accused us of wrongful motives and the it was not good. Or maybe we had a patient with a bad outcome and that, that we may be felt in retrospect, we could have done better. So what do we do and we have a really bad day? And obviously, each of us has our different coping mechanisms, but again, find a trusted colleague, friend, spouse that you can share with, again, you don't have to share patient healthcare information or even a name, but being able to share that being able to recharge your batteries and predict people that's different. I like to ask that question. "How do you recharge your batteries?" Some people like to get off where its quiet alone, some people like they get not bathtub but read, some people you know like to watch a movie and get their mind on something totally different. Some people like to listen to wonderful music, but you know, engage that item that for you recharges your batteries and then get plenty of rest. Many times after you've done that plenty of rest, you've engaged in something that recharges your batteries, you've been able to share that experience. You're not all alone. Many times after that, that perspective changes. So the bad day doesn't seem quite so bad, or the bad situation seems more tolerable or more manageable. So that's something I'd like to say.

Narrator 12:51

If you have a unique way of minimizing burnout in the medical field, please let us know. Email This podcast series is made for the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and funded by the Health Resource Service Administration grant number T0BHP33106.