View from a Surgeon: Take a break!

View from a Surgeon: Take a break!

Take a break – Take a Kit-Kat!

Of course there are very many other brands of chocolate, and sugar content is the buzz word of the day, but taking a break is a vital part of work.

We are all aware of burn out among doctors, a topic I have written about in the past. Studies have shown that over 80% of doctors over 50 are in burn out. Traditionally we are a group of highly motivated professionals, who “grin and bear it” when it comes to work. The European 48 hour working week directive has put a line in the sand regarding hours you’re allowed to work, and I can remember my first job was 94 hours a week average. Yes, I was tired all the time.

I still have colleagues who think the world will stop if they take a break. I still have colleagues who take a week off their NHS job and work privately. I have colleagues who work all week in the NHS and then weekends in the private sector.


Yes really!

It might seem like you are being considerate or tough or professional, or any other description you want to use to justify why you don’t take a break, but remember, your in-tray will always be full on the day you die.

Breaks are important. It refreshes your mind and soul.

Leave your phone and iPad behind and don’t check your emails. Take your family away to Disneyland and remember what it means to be a kid again. Dress up like Captain Hook and chase your kids around the theme park. Go on the “it’s a small world” ride 2000 times until you know the words of the song off by heart. Don’t have kids? Then go away with friends, partner, family or just on your own.

Through medical school I used to pack up a rucksack and head off to the Lakes. I would walk to a hostel and then each day plan a route to the next hostel. I enjoyed the quiet and the peace. Just me and a Cornish pasty and a caramel slice, sitting on a rock looking out over Windermere, or Grasmere, or at the top of Helvellyn.

I think that younger people are more aware of breaks. We never would have thought of disappearing for a year and backpacking around Vietnam, but as you get more responsibilities, the care you afford others you forget to apply to yourself.

I was told once that “your patients are the most important thing”. Actually, you are the most important thing. Without a healthy doctor, there will not be healthy patients

Take a break!


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