How To Avoid Healthcare Burnout: A PA Student’s Perspective

Healthcare careers carry a high risk of burnout even at the best of times. Packed schedules, staffing shortages, and the emotional toll of the work itself are a lot to deal with. As a student preparing for a physician assistant career, I’d already been thinking about the importance of taking care of yourself. If you can take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health, you can take better care of your patients. The pandemic has made these considerations more urgent than ever. COVID-19 has amplified the stresses of healthcare work beyond what most of us could have imagined.  

As healthcare workers, we’ve learned from this unprecedented experience. We’ve seen how much value we bring to this earth. Our eyes have been opened to the inextricable links connecting us to each other. The virus is spreading illness and death, but we as human beings can spread love, kindness, and positivity. We must support each other emotionally and come out of this shared experience stronger. This might seem impossible when everything feels like it’s going wrong. But there are ways to find light in the dark. I would like to share the reminders that have helped me. Perhaps they will help you too.

  • Remember to move forward one day at a time. It is okay to not be okay. You are not alone. You do not have to go full speed all the time. There will be good days and bad days, even without a pandemic. Take it moment by moment.
  • Remember to take some time for yourself. Take a break from technology. Take a walk. Dress up, even if it’s just for you. Watch that show you love. Do not judge yourself. Ask yourself what you need. Be here, just as you are. 
  • Remember how far you have come. Stress, anxiety, fear, and grief are nearly constant during this pandemic. It feels endless, and you may feel stuck, but your compassion, tenacity, patience, and professionalism are guiding you to where you need to be. You are resilient.
  • Remember what excites you about medicine. You are treating people who look to you for hope, safety, and answers. Patients are relying on your empathy and care. Get focused, stay organized, find balance, and don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. You devoted yourself to medicine because it is your calling.

Finally, remember to reflect on your own contributions to the world. Amid the chaos, take stock of the life you are living. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel helpless. You may feel like you are not making a difference. But you are already doing more than you know. 

Written by Melissa Lilian Elist, B.A. 

UC Davis Physician Assistant Student, Cohort of 2021

Melissa Lilian Elist is currently a physician assistant student at University of California, Davis, cohort of 2021. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and an emphasis in Disability Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. She is a preventative care advocate and is very proactive in mindfulness, consciousness, and self-love. You can find Melissa on Instagram @melissaelist or reach her via email at 

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