One doctor addresses burnout through song.
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Doesn’t it seem like we have tried most everything to reduce the epidemic of physician burnout, but nothing is working to any significant degree? Doesn’t that call for something more out-of-the box?
Perhaps the oncologist Stuart Bloom, MD, has come up with something promising: a musical theatre piece.1 It is called “How to Avoid Burnout in 73 Minutes” and played to sold out audiences in small and large theaters in Minneapolis this past spring, with the intent to do so again next spring. Other physicians seem to like it, and the public got an education about burnout besides being entertained.
The creator and star of the show is Bloom himself. For the first part of his work career, he was an actor, comedian, and song writer in New York. Then, when his own father had stomach cancer, his wife read the book by the oncologist Bernie S. Siegel, MD, titled Love, Medicine & Miracles. She gave it to her husband and they both wondered if he could—and should—become an oncologist. And he did, returning to their hometown of Minneapolis. All the while, he continued to write songs on the side, even doing shows during medical school and residency.
However, about 5 to 6 years ago, he started to notice that he was burning out. He then was recruited out of the community by the University of Minnesota to address the issue of physician burnout. He was not the usual academic, but he knew how to communicate through songs and musical theatre. So, he wrote the show, covering in song the usual burnout topics, such as being controlled as an employee and using electronic health records in song.
Interestingly enough, he mirrored a psychiatric approach by playing an oncologist while another actor plays his inner voice as they go through a burnout questionnaire in an oncology clinic.
With this success, greater exposure would be best. Why not Broadway!?
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.
1. Henderson J. Oncologist turns burnout into a musical. MedPage Today. July 27, 2023. Accessed August 1, 2023. https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/features/105663