Burnout among medical professionals and other frontline workers is an epidemic in and of itself.

Even pre-pandemic, a staggering 400 physicians died by suicide each year.

A major contributor to burnout is that many focus on being the caregiver and lose sight of being the recipient of care.

I found that the biggest barrier associated with receiving help for their wellbeing is the stigma of being a patient. 

During my ER residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital, I had the honor to work alongside Dr. Lorna Breen.

Unfortunately, Dr. Breen made headlines in April 2020 after taking her own life.

It was found that her passing was a result of extreme burnout associated with caring for emergency room patients at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In order to provide the best care for patients, it’s important that we are whole. Our patients will pay the price if we bring only a fraction of ourselves to our hospitals and practices.

It is not only doctors who are struggling with burnout. Doctors work closely with a staff of nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and more specialists.

Everyone is suffering from burnout across the board. People are leaving the profession at alarming rates.

Medical Burnout Statistics Are Quite Disturbing

  • Physicians and nurses die by suicide at two times the rate of the general population.
  • Burnout has been shown to cause a 200% increased risk in medical errors.
  • 62% of nurses and 42% of doctors felt burned out while treating COVID-19 patients.
  • 69% of female physicians identified a stigma-related reason for avoiding mental health treatment.

What does burnout feel like?

• Burnout feels like the Monday blues.

• When you get palpitations when you think about having to go into work the following day.

• When you dread Sundays because it places you one day closer to Monday.

• When you feel exhausted and numb.

• You just “go through the motions,” but get easily irritated and frazzled sometimes at the slightest of things.

• Things that normally wouldn’t have bothered you, especially when you first started working at your job, are now bothersome.

If you check these boxes and answer “yes” to these questions, you are quite likely experiencing burnout:

  • Finding it hard to cope?
  • Feeling tired all the time?
  • Feeling helpless?
  • Feeling disengaged?
  • Wanting to reignite your flame?

Why are medical professionals so burned out?

Remember, medical professionals are human too. We are trained to keep a poker face and be the voice of reason or calm because a patient or loved-one cannot hear or sense panic in our voice or demeanor. We need to be strong for the weak.

However, medical professionals experience micro-trauma at the bedside. It can be real physical trauma and threats or micro-traumas.

Whether in the ER or other hospital departments or private practices, we experience, see and hear things we cannot unsee or unexperience. 

When a patient’s very last words are, “Doc, don’t let me die,” and then they flatline and we are unable to resuscitate them, it affects us deeply.

In addition to that, you don’t have any time to process what you just experienced because the room is needed for the next patient. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) burnout is defined as follows: “an occupational phenomenon due to chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

So, what are our options to help manage the inherent stress in our day-to-day experiences as a healthcare professional and combat burnout? 

How Hope4Med Uses the Metaverse to Help Medical Professionals Combat Burnout

I created Hope4Med, a first-of-its-kind mental health and wellness platform in the metaverse to help healthcare professionals and caregivers combat burnout and maintain a healthy balance of mental health and well-being so they can flourish. 

Many healthcare professionals and caregivers feel that they don’t have a safe, private support system to help with their mental health needs.

Therefore, should they seek help, many are afraid of losing their career.

The 3D Metaverse experience provides options for anonymity should the participants choose.

Each Hope4Med participant can create an “avatar” with a fictional name and appearance for the weekly sessions, thus creating a safe, comfortable space for their self-care.

Hope4Med aims to build a community and network of peers helping peers in a private, confidential space.

We need a place to unload and discuss this trauma with peers who understand us and can relate.

Hope4Med offers that in a judgment-free zone. We do not diagnose or treat mental health conditions.

It is more like a support group in the metaverse. We look for what is right in each person, not what is wrong, and help members release, relax and rejuvenate to become the best version of themselves.

These three R’s help people refill their gas tank so that they can face the world with a tank, or cup, that is overflowing.

The first summit in the metaverse, called “Holistically Well in the Metaverse: An Exploration of 9 Dimensions of Wellness, endorsed by Hope4Med,” took place October 1-2.

By establishing a presence in the metaverse, Hope4Med is able to reach a wide audience of healthcare professionals and caretakers globally who are struggling with burnout, grief, trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and more. 

I use my YouTube channel to educate the masses about medicine, wellness, disease and what to expect in the ER.

To learn more about me, check out my website and follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

For more information about Hope4Med, please visit hope4med.com and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. I invite you to listen to my Hope4Med podcast, which has two new episodes each week.

Naomi Jean-Baptiste, MD, also known as Doctor JB The Metaverse Doc, is CEO/founder of Hope4Med. An Orlando-based emergency medical physician with a decade of experience, she earned her bachelor of science degree in psychology and medical doctor degree from Duke University. She completed her ER residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Top image: Shutterstock/antoniodiaz