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Transforming Burnout: A Simple Guide to Self-Renewal

This is an interesting little book. I say “little,” since it’s a slim volume at just 82 pages. However, there’s a lot of wisdom held within it — particularly for those who are healthcare workers battling job burnout and stress.

I think the author (an MD) would like this book to appeal to a larger audience than healthcare workers, but perhaps it’s because I myself have worked in the healthcare field for just under two decades that Dr. Sheldon’s story of burnout and ultimate renewal resonates with me so strongly.

It’s an easy thing to become cynical in the medical industry. Dr. Shelton describes this as happening seemingly against his will in as he carries out the routine day-to-day tasks as a physician at a Native American community center. Ironically however, it is through Native American teachings that his situation changes. A concerned colleague, noticing the author’s listlessness, suggests a meeting with a traditional healer at the clinic. Dr. Shelton does not become an instant New Age believer, however:

“Finally the healer completed his story and said, ‘Okay, I’ll see what I can do.’ He got up and came to me. Placing his hands over my head, he began to sing a native song. His son was drumming, the healer was singing, and I could feel myself moving slightly with the beat. I felt respectful, present, and open, but to be honest, I did not expect anything beneficial to come of this…He announced, ‘Your spirit had left you, and I put it back.’ I was astounded. What sort of thing was that to say?”

This is the first step the author takes to reconcile himself to his own spirituality and that action is what seems to reverse the burnout he experienced. The book is filled with very practical tips in layman terms except, of course, for the new word I learned: enantiadromia. Apparently, “it is a condition in which one’s personal identity is bound up with his or her professional identity,” often found in workaholics who – not surprisingly – are often suffering from burnout. Intelligently written and very sensible, I recommend this book to healthcare workers looking for a way to reframe their workaday worlds.

Transforming Burnout: A Simple Guide to Self-Renewal
by Alan Shelton, MD
Vibrant Press, 2007
82 pp., $12.95

Review by Diane Saarinen. Learn more about Diane at http://freespiritdiane.gaia.com/

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