Thursday, January 19, 2012

Life as a Family Medicine Intern and Social Media Burnout

Rewind to November.

This blog had its best month ever, getting almost 4000 hits with several recent posts generating buzz.  Promotion of the blog was at its tipping point - it would either explode or continue on in its current state. 

Along came my month in ICU, an intern without a senior resident managing a census that not many of my peers have had during their ICU experience.  With this we bring in the idea of new work hour rules for interns, working 6 days per week, 12-16 hours per shift, 8-12 hours off between with a 24 hour hiatus known as a day off.  One day during the rotation I checked out my Klout score to notice that it had plummeted many points.  I also checked out the blog to notice that there were no new posts and that traffic dipped by about half.  And oh, by the way, my twitter account had my auto-generated #FMRevolution news daily as its only tweets for at least 15 days.  Several months prior to this I probably would have went into manic mode to try and recover from lost involvement in the health care and social media community.  Instead, I took a deep breath in and thought about how much I did not want to put energy into social media.  What was going on?

Next up was a month on night float: midnight to noon, 6 nights per week over the holiday break and through the New Year.  At my residency program, night float consists of an intern and senior along with another upper year resident on-call: 3 residents to cover codes, ICU, med/surg ward, ER admissions, and OB.  There were plenty of times that we were not busy though I knew social media involvement at the early hours in the morning was not going to be very effective, especially when I would be sleeping during the times at which my involvement could possibly make a difference.  I did not want to admit it and was in denial the entire time over it.  "Burnout" was not something in my vocabulary.  I could not bring myself to admit that I was burnt out from all my involvement in social media.

Well, after much debate and trying to figure out how to say it, here it is: I am officially burnt out from social media.  Is it intern year?  Is it everything I am involved with within my residency program and/or nationally with the AAFP?  Were my expectations too high in the current stage of my medical career?  Was I expecting more and not seeing the results I was hoping for?  These are just some of the questions I have yet to find the exact answers for.  

We learn all about life balance and making sure to have good skills in time management.  Is it possible to balance everything that goes into being an intern and be effective with social media?  

Over the next month I am setting a few goals that I will hopefully be able to achieve given that I have finally admitted to my social media burnout.
  1. I am going to write one blog post within the month and try to generate more posts from other authors on the blog.
  2. I will find one interesting article published in the news within the past 24 hours about family medicine or primary care and tweet this article at some point every day.
  3. I will participate in one twitter chat this month, topic TBD (#mdchat, #hcsm, #meded?)
It will be interesting to see how this goes.  Hopefully I will be able to figure out a good balancing act to make it work!


  1. Kevin,
    Your story is not uncommon. Residency is challenging. There are times when you have the mental focus/ capacity for only a few things. Focus on your family and work/ education. Spend some time on social media when you have the time and it's enjoyable. It usually gets easier 2nd, 3rd year. Hang in there.

  2. As someone who does not actually know you in the real world and has not spoken to you much recently at all because of the reasons talked about in the post, I am at risk of overreaching in making this comment, so by all means, take my comment with a grain of salt.

    Nevertheless, I did want to say that what you write about - the long ICU hours, night float, intern year - sound a heck of a lot like not social media burnout (because you haven't actually been spending that much time on social media in the past couple months because of these activities, and understandably so!) but just plain old burnout. Maybe I'm just an ignorant medical student, but the fact that you're an intern makes being too tired to blog seem perfectly reasonable to me. I realize that burnout isn't part of your vocabulary but sometimes just being tired and vegging out at the end of the day is okay, especially when you are doing work as challenging as medicine.

    So while I value and have greatly missed your contribution to the social media sphere, I would say that it might be more sustainable to consider only coming back in a way that will feel empowering and energizing to you, even when you are at your most tired. At least, that is what I come back to, when I am feeling burnt out from second year, and am not sure how to fit social media into all of that.

    Best of luck!

  3. The trick to survival is triage, in life as well as medicine. There is only one you, but many places where you can devote your energies (and more than a few that will demand them). Recognizing where your voice might move a discussion or a message that needs to be disseminated even greater than it already has been are ways to reduce the associated stress without sacrificing involvement. Listening to the discussion and remaining engaged doesn't have to be a volume business. Regardless of what the equations say, your true clout comes from the power of your ideas not how often people hear your words.