Those who are underrepresented in medicine experience increased discrimination. It’s important to speak up against micro and macro aggressions.
Lifelong Learning in Clinical Excellence | June 7, 2022 | 2 min read
By Simone Lescott, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine
“What’s your name again? Destiny?” My attending asked after I presented my H&P at table rounds. I mentally sighed. I’d been on service for two weeks and he still hadn’t gotten my name right. Not to mention, it hour 28 of my “24-hour call” and I was also physically exhausted. “It’s Simone,” I answered, unsure if he actually heard.
‘‘This isn’t the first time that I’ve been mistaken for the only other black medical student here,” I thought to myself, “And I know that it unfortunately won’t be the last.”
Burnout, which is caused by excessive emotional, physical, and mental stress, is no stranger to those in the medical field. In fact, a survey of physicians conducted in 2021, found that as many as 42% of physicians reported burnout. A 2022 study of medical students recently published in JAMA further corroborated these findings and also noted that medical students who are under-represented in medicine (URIM), had a higher rate of exhaustion-related burnout.
So how do URIMs, who also experience micro/macro aggressions and discrimination that their colleagues may not, mitigate burnout? As an URIM, here are some tips that have worked for me.
1. Practice daily self-affirmations.
This may help mitigate imposter syndrome, feelings of inadequacy, and feelings that you must constantly prove yourself to others. Acknowledge these feelings and recognize that you are adequate and you are enough. Consistently remind yourself of the honor that you are entrusted with: patients allow you to participate in their moments of extreme vulnerability and in their triumphs and suffering.
2. Find your purpose and meaning in medicine. Remind yourself of your why.
3. Manage your time.
Don’t be afraid to say no to things that do not align with your goals and purpose
4. Unplug and take scheduled breaks.
Being constantly faced with the extremes of life and death can take a physical, mental, and emotional toll. Find activities outside of medicine that allow you to unwind and remember to take scheduled breaks.
5. Find and spend time with your “tribe.”
One of the most important lessons that the taught us is the importance of human connection. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and find mentors who can offer guidance and support. Don’t neglect to spend time with your family. Many URIMs leave their family behind to embark on their medical journey: if you can’t physically spend time with your family, find creative ways to stay connected.
6. Speak out against discrimination and/or micro/macroaggressions.
Recognize when you or those around you experience these unfortunate biases and utilize the appropriate avenues for addressing them.
7. Recognize feelings of burnout.
Perform daily self-check-ins for feelings of burnout which may include exhaustion, irritability, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, and depersonalization. Validate those feelings and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.