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Outside the Lab Profession

Walk in the Park

Here at The Pathologist, we’re well into the busiest time of the year. There are articles to be written, meetings to be had, calls to be taken – and the pace always seems to double as we inch closer to winter. It’s a phenomenon I recall from my days in the lab, although the emphasis has shifted; instead of desperately trying to design useful experiments and stockpile reagents so that the grant money is spent on time, we’re now trying to publish all of the articles, address all of the hot topics, and wrap up all of our roundtables, events, and special features before the year is out.

Busy times like these highlight to me the value of balancing work and personal life – the importance of shutting down the computer at the end of the day or taking the dog for a walk. It can be difficult to switch off, especially during busy periods – but that’s also when switching off is more necessary than ever. As workloads mount, stress levels rise, and the risk of burnout increases. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of pathology and laboratory medicine, where staff shortages, snowballing demands, and a year and a half of pandemic crisis have taken – and continue to take – a toll.

In cases of burnout, people are often doing whatever they can, good or bad, to keep their heads above water.

Medscape’s Pathologist Lifestyle, Happiness, and Burnout Report for 2021 shows a significant drop in pathologists’ happiness levels over the course of the pandemic – from 82 to 56 percent (1). Forty percent of respondents said they were feeling burned out, depressed, or both – but, although nearly half felt that the issue had a “strong or severe impact” on their lives, few reported that they were seeking professional help to cope. Rather, common coping strategies included self-isolation, eating junk food, exercising, music, and sleep. Some of these are generally beneficial to health, others less so – but, in cases of burnout, people are often doing whatever they can, good or bad, to keep their heads above water.

I’m lucky – I have a dog to drag me away from my screens when I’m spending too long at work. What about you? Let me know your best burnout busters – and let’s get through the busy times together.

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  1. KL Martin, ML Koval, “Medscape Pathologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021” (2021). Available at: https://wb.md/39NQgDb.
About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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