Surfacing after burnout
Chris Johnstone's Career Focus article on burnout (BMJ, 1 May 1999) struck a chord with me as I had recently downshifted from the chaos of trauma surgery.
Unlike Dr Johnstone, it was not a respiratory tract infection which took me out of the fast lane; it was the discovery from a long overdue medical check up that I was hypertensive. Sadly, I am unlikely the first or the last professional person who has demanded a nice, unequivocal diagnosis before accepting that physical and emotional resources were buckling under the prevailing demands.
For 12 years I headed a paediatric trauma unit. The profile of trauma care in South Africa is well known, and the substantial cohort of British students who visit our hospitals no doubt return home well equipped with ripping yarns of rivers of blood and guns hidden under hospital gowns. When local trauma surgeons gather at conferences or advance trauma life support courses, the fishing stories are no less melodramatic. Sadly, all this guff serves primarily to shut out the cumulative emotional strain which we all