A View From a Surgeon: Burn Out

A View From a Surgeon: Burn Out


Burn out is a very real risk at all levels of training and at Consultant level. Why is this?

To understand the psychology of burn out, I personally feel that you need to consider intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic is an adjective meaning belonging naturally or essential, innate, inbred, ingrained, deep-rooted, and it is here that part of the problem occurs. Doctors and surgeons, by their very nature are highly intelligent (hopefully), very driven individuals who seek perfection. That on its own is not a problem, in fact it is laudable and the reason why they are so successful – to the benefit of society at large.


Extrinsic is an adjective meaning not part of the essential nature of someone or something; coming or operating from outside, alien, foreign.

If you add the intrinsic, driven, inbred, deep-rooted obsession and drive with the stresses of extrinsic factors, then it’s the equivalent of light the blue touch paper and stand well back

Health care is driven by extrinsic factors that are out of the control of doctors and surgeons. We have no control over what that next patient will have who walks into your office, or at whatever time of the day they will appear.

Doctors can cope with that, we understand that.

What we cannot understand, or accept, are the extrinsic forces that dictate what we do, when we do it and in what way.

Working within your own private practice removes that extrinsic interference and allows you a level of clinical satisfaction that is not only good for you as a clinician, but for your patients in general.

Take the link to the questionnaire that will give you an idea of where you sit in the burn out league. Then, when you look at your answers, ask “what can I do to change things?”

You may not be able to change your intrinsic features, that’s who you are, but you certainly can look at changing the extrinsic stresses by taking control of your life and your practice.

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