Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

“Put Your Oxygen Mask on First”


If clinicians don’t feel well emotionally, they may not be able to provide excellent care to their patients. When experiencing burnout, it’s advisable to take time off for rejuvenation and to consider ways to advocate for systemic change.

It’s awful to feel like you’re dragging yourself to work every day. I sat behind the steering wheel, gazed wearily at the hospital entrance, and thought, “Once you enter those doors, an endless day of suffering and fatigue begins.” I walked through the doors. “Wait,” I thought. “Don’t take the elevator, take the stairs. You can gain a few more minutes before you arrive to your dreary basement office. And who knows, something unexpected might happen and bail you out.”


My clinical team used to be eager to see and work with me. Why had they all started avoiding me? Something had broken inside of me. From a passionate and devoted physician, I became unmotivated and felt deep desolation every time I thought about work. I often cried for no reason and lashed out at coworkers.


I finally realized that I was completely burned out. I was able to take vacation time to sleep, rest, and take care of myself. After some time off, I returned to work as a joyful doctor, looking forward to listening, talking with, and caring for my patients. From this experience, I learned two things:


1. “Put your oxygen mask on first.” If we don’t feel well emotionally, we can’t give patients excellent care.


2. Take time off when you feel burned out to rest, rejuvenate, and return to work reinvigorated.




This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.