The Truth Is… A Ballad on Burnout

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

Everyone deals with their pent up frustration and burnout differently. Below you’ll find how I often deal with mine. I wrote this after going for a run and getting inspired listening to a song by Macklemore. The following flowed out of my head, into my hands, and onto the keyboard. “The Truth Is” is about burnout in medicine. Call it a rap, a poem, ballad, or whatever you like.

It’s how I deal with the thoughts inside my head.

The Truth Is… A Ballad on Burnout

The truth is, those of us in the trenches, we don’t have a say.
And those in power are just trying to make it rain dollar bills with their golden cuffs and parachute.In their ivory towers, chasing metrics in a suit.
Screamin’ from the burnout, begging for a change.
That won’t happen, because our voice is out of range.

The truth is I’m sick of getting trapped in other people’s trappings.
I used to care so much about what others thought was happening.
I wanted some approval… but now that doesn’t matter.
Promotions, tenure, papers; it’s all a bunch of chatter.
See, I wanna be a good doctor; but I hate having to choose between being a good employee, a husband, and dad, too.The truth is burnout can consume every ounce of what we love.
One less doctor, sister, mother, brother, father to adore.
The system must change; meditations and deep breathing don’t fix the problem, the morally injured left seething.
It’s time that we stand up, and demand what we deserve.
We can no longer be quiet; we’re starting to strike a nerve.
The truth is the change can’t happen, ‘til those in power hear us.
“Be the change you want to see”, that’s what they tell us.
We write. We rap. We sing. We cry…
It all goes unheard ‘til there’s another death in the night.
Hard times and bad culture can change a man’s mind.
More apathy, less compassion – we’re breaking our design.
The truth is we don’t have to be perfect; we don’t have every answer, but if this system doesn’t change, it’s going to grow like cancer.Too young to be noticed, but too loud to be ignored.
They put doctors in the corner, and knock ‘em to the floor.
Burned out by the thousands. But who’s keeping score?
The truth is… we are. In our bank account. Until we can walk out the door.

What Do You Do To Battle Burnout?

If I am being honest, I love a lot about my job. But I also recognize that the corporate hospital environment is a business. I need to protect my family and our interests. Financial independence provides an escape hatch from burnout.

I recognize that individual solutions are not going to fix the systemic problem that is burnout and moral injury. That said, we all have to deal with this battle in our own way. And it likely looks different for everyone.

For me it looks like putting head phones on my ears, and writing.

Some might play a game of pick-up basketball to brush back the burnout. While others might sing, dance, or play an instrument.

Take Home: The Truth Is

What I’ve learned is that this conversation about burnout and moral injury is worth having. We all have a part to play. From the doctor who loves every single aspect of their job – and can’t relate to the message on this site – to the people at the bottom of their burnout…

The truth is that every voice is important.

How do you let your voice be heard? How do you blow off steam? Is there a way you’ve found to deal with the burn out? What’s your escape? Leave a comment below.



  1. Dr. McFrugal

    This is great, Jimmy. I try to make my voice heard by talking directly to administrators. Not sure how much of an impact there is, but I think every little bit helps. For the most point, I reduce my risk of burnout by not working that much. Like you, being financially independent will serve as an escape hatch as a plan B for moral injury and burnout. But for now, I’m not trying to escape. I’m still trying to enjoy the journey.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      DMF, I do the same with my departmental administrators. My hospital is so big, I doubt that my institutional administrators would even know who I am.

      I try to work directly, and to keep a good attitude about my job. But sometimes ya just gotta let it out. It’s good to get the creative juices flowing sometimes.

  2. Bill Yount

    When does the video drop to YouTube?:)


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