The concept of burnout isn't new; the pre-game is brownout, and it feels like it sounds. There's no crack, no explosion, no drama. Just a slow fade. The exams of patients get a bit shorter, the reliance on data higher because it's emotionally easier to look at a scan or a lab. The morning is harder.
Empathy starts to slip and is replaced by pity and sarcasm. Families aren't comforted or updated as often. It's not terminal. Your work doesn't slip to poor, just from excellent to good, or good enough.
Time to leave the ICU. Time to leave the one long hallway lined with an ever-changing but remarkably similar parade of random victims, the drug dealer next to the teenage model UN attendee struck by the drunk driver. Time to leave the purring ventilators and whispering pumps and step into the sunlight. Three days. Thirty-six hours, give or take. Not that I'm counting.
I am not who I was.