ACC.14: Balance is key to avoiding burnout

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Long-term career aspirations may vary from cardiologist to cardiologist, but success will depend on planning and taking control, according to a March 29 presentation at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) scientific session.

Speaker Howard Walpole, MD, MBA, FACC, CMO, of Okyanos Heart Institute in the Bahamas, used the presentation to share the advice he wished he’d been given early in his career. He stressed balance in the five factors of life: career, money, family, social life and health.

For a cardiology career, Walpole said that today’s changing environment will require flexibility. “The days of going into cardiology, becoming an interventionalist, putting in catheters for 40 years and then retiring are probably over. The world is changing very rapidly and new things come up all the time.”

Money can be your best friend or your worst enemy, cautioned Walpole. Once a cardiologist is established in a high-paying position, it can be tempting to reward him or herself with a large home and an expensive car, but these luxuries can become “golden handcuffs” that lead to debt. A long-term savings and investment plan is essential, and Walpole said the time to start saving is now.  

Family planning is another consideration, and Walpole humorously emphasized taking only one spouse. While his advice elicited laughs from attendees, he was serious in saying that open communication and decision-making with a spouse can make a healthier relationship, not to mention that divorce is expensive.

Friends are the spice of life, added Walpole, and remaining active in organizations like ACC can help foster friendships with other professionals.

Lastly, while some health problems are out of a physician's hands, cardiologists should try preserve their health and avoid burnout by learning to say "no" and not taking on more responsibility than they can handle.

“Medicine is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Walpole.