Doctoring is hard work, said Robert Muelleman, M.D., quoting long-time emergency medicine physician W. Kendall McNabney, M.D.
Muelleman, who spent 36 years in clinical and administrative roles as an emergency medicine physician, was the keynote speaker on Oct. 14 at the school’s W. Kendall McNabney Endowed Lectureship. The graduate of UMKC School of Medicine Emergency Medicine Residency program talked about burnout as a physician and specifically those who practice emergency medicine.
“Dr. McNabney said doctoring is hard work,” Muelleman said. “I heard him say it more than once.”
Muelleman understands just how hard. He served as a faculty member in emergency medicine for 10 years at UMKC before moving to Nebraska where he retired as a professor at the University of Nebraska.
The World Health Organization describes burnout among physicians not a medical condition but an occupational phenomenon, Muelleman said. He added that it’s a wicked problem that poses serious consequences for not only physicians but for patient care and the health system as well.
“You’re dealing with a bunch of exhausted doctors who love what they do,” he said. “We’ve got issues in terms of exhaustion and things like that but also a lot of opportunities for resilience.”
The annual lectureship honors McNabney, who founded the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Center in 1973. McNabney was the first and longest serving chair of emergency medicine at the school and served as the head of trauma services for many years.
Adam Algren, M.D., chair of Emergency Medicine, recognized McNabney, who died in August, as an icon of the school and the specialty of emergency medicine.
“He impacted thousands of individuals, learners, patients in his career,” Algren said. “We’re all thankful about what he was able to teach us about being a skilled compassionate clinician and a good human being. We know his memory and legacy will live on in the department and the organization.”