Dear Female Doc: I’m exhausted

Dear Female Doc,
I came across your blog and am glad to see that I’m not the only one experiencing burnout. I am currently in a Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship and feel physically, intellectually and emotionally drained. I had a bout of pretty serious depression and that delayed my training. I would love to have more time to dedicate to self care but am afraid that’s just not feasible while in a fellowship that has a very busy schedule. I’m afraid that I’ll have to leave the fellowship to better take care of myself, but am torn about giving up a career in critical care.
Most of my co-fellows are men, and while they are also tired, they don’t seem to be as heavily affected as me, and sometimes I get angry at myself for not being “tougher.”
I don’t know what to do… can you give some advice?
Sincerely,
Exhausted

Dear Exhausted,
First, I want to say that what you’re feeling is TOTALLY NORMAL. I used to ask my program director advice as well, because I was exhausted and I would see some of my co-fellows with energy and they had small children at home.  I only had myself to take care of and I was bewildered at how they were managing.  My director told me it’s normal, and that they feel it too.
 
Self care will be limited in fellowship, but one thing I did was put in an effort to reconnect with many of my friends. I got on a group email with my crew of girlfriends in California. I also started going out more even though I was SO TIRED. I figured, either way I’ll be tired, but at least this way I’ll have a little bit of fun.
 
Lastly, DON’T GIVE UP!  IT’S WORTH IT! I looked into switching to ID in the first few months of my fellowship because I wasn’t sure I could handle my grueling program.  My schedule was Q3 27h in house calls. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. My life is amazing now, and I’m so happy to be a critical care physician.  Just push through!  You can do it!
 
I hope this helps.  Please keep me updated on your progress!
 
Warmly,
The Female Doc

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