For Claire Lawlor, MD, a recent clinical fellow in pediatric otolaryngology at Harvard University/Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, becoming an otolaryngology resident at Tulane University in New Orleans “changed my life drastically.”
Explore this issue:August 2018
“The work hours are long and there’s tremendous pressure put on you by your program, and that you put on yourself,” said Dr. Lawlor, who is also chair of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO–HNS) Section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training. “There is very little time for hobbies or the interests that used to define you. There’s a real loss of your former self-identifiers. Plus, friends and family who are outside your field may not always understand—you miss weddings, family events, holidays, and, depending on the program you’re in, it can be hard to go home to visit when family is sick. The time commitments are vast.”
Such environments can foster burnout, a physical or mental collapse brought on by too much work or stress. And burnout at the early stages of a medical career can cause feelings of hopelessness about medicine and/or self, and lead to less empathy toward patients.