Healing the Healer: Addressing Physician Burnout

Healing the Healer: Addressing Physician Burnout

02 November 2023 Adam Blanning 1231 views

Adam Blanning, M.D., is one of the new leaders of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum. Here, he speaks with Charles Cross about a new course on physician burnout, held through the Physician’s Association for Anthroposophic Medicine.


Welcome back, Adam. Could you give us a little introduction to this initiative on physician burnout?

Well, it has been part of anthroposophic medical training for a while. Sometimes, people who come into the training are there because they recognize that they can’t keep doing medicine the same way that they have been. It’s a little sobering because it’s often people who have been actively practicing medicine and taking care of patients for maybe 10 or 15 years saying, “I really need to do something different.” However, something has come up several times in these last years with medical students who are curious about holistic or integrative medicine and asking, “How do you support yourself? How do you keep resiliency going?” We’ve had medical students who were sometimes only in their first or second year of study telling us that they were feeling burned out and really questioning what they’re doing or where their training is taking them.

It’s something that’s become a common experience, more and more. Statistics show that in the last 3 or 4 years, 60 to 70% of physicians are feeling burned out. I was just at a large integrative medicine conference where it was shared that, at least in the United States, it’s estimated that one physician a day commits suicide because of burnout.

It sounds like, just by its nature, anthroposophic medicine attracts and helps folks at risk of burnout.

Burnout is a place where people are looking for other perspectives, and it’s a place where it’s hard to go very far without openly talking about meaning and spirituality. We’re coming to 100 years since Rudolf Steiner gave the course for the younger doctors—there will be some special conferences in January to commemorate that. One of the things that Steiner speaks quite directly about is, “How do we find our will to heal?” It might not be the case with other activities, but it is pretty hard in the medical field to keep it from being just a job if you don’t connect to this will to heal.

This excerpt comes from an article originally published in the (online exclusive) English Edition of the weekly Newsletter ‹Das Goetheanum›. You can read the full article on the website of ‹Das Goetheanum›.


Cover image Sofia Lismont