Eight clinical signs you need a vacation

By Physician Sense, for MDLinx
Published April 17, 2019

Key Takeaways

Warming weather likely has many of you thinking about summer vacation season, which is only a couple of months away. But perhaps not enough of you.

recent Glassdoor survey revealed that only 54% of U.S. employees had used all of their vacation time in the past 12 months. Given the current burnout rate among physicians, forgoing time to decompress is not a wise move.

Even if you think of yourself as a “superhero, workaholic, Lone Ranger, perfectionist,” and you seem to be firing on all eight cylinders, you might not be functioning at your best. With that in mind, here are 8 clinical signs that you need to take a vacation.

Elevated resting heart rate

Your nurses take the vitals of every patient you see. But when was the last time you took your own? When taken first thing in the morning, your resting heart rate can be an overall indicator of readiness, rest, and recovery. Athletes will often check theirs immediately after waking to determine how hard they can push themselves in training.

Start by establishing your baseline resting heart rate. If you start to notice that yours is high first thing in the morning, a stress-reducing vacation may be in order.


You’ve been seeing your dentist every 6 months, right doctor? The next time you go for a checkup, ask if the dentist sees any sign of bruxism.

Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw will leave telltale signs of worn enamel or a tense TMJ. These will often happen while you sleep. Both are good indicators of high levels of stress. Although you can wear a mouthguard while sleeping to protect your teeth, this will do little to address the underlying issue. Go get some R&R.


Are you wide awake at night and falling asleep at your weekly all-hands meeting? Even though you might act like a disease-curing machine, you still need your 7-8 hours of sleep like the rest of us mere mortals.

As you’re likely well aware, this is an area where it’s likely worth a consult from a colleague to rule out something serious like sleep apnea. But even if it’s stress that’s keeping you up at night, it’s still just as serious. An extended vacation removed from the sleep-disrupting blue light of our smart devices could help reset your circadian rhythm.

Cortisol level

Still not convinced you need a vacation? How about we let the data speak for itself. Blood, urine, and saliva tests are available to determine your level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Urine and saliva tests may prove to be more accurate, especially if needles stress you out. Abnormal cortisol levels could also indicate Cushing’s syndrome, the result of too much cortisol, or Addison’s disease, too little.

Continue reading on Physician Sense >

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter