Physician burnout- Something to ponder on


Long hours at medical school, was something one could get used to when one is young. But long hours when at work and critical medical cases to deal with can drain you of all energy at the end of the day. In the Medscape 2013 Lifestyle Report, burnout was reported to be slightly under 40 percent as conducted in a survey. But in 2015, the same Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report conducted a similar survey wherein burnout was reported to have increased to 46 percent of the total number of physicians surveyed. And, although burnout occurs across all specialties, it is the front liners who are affected the most – the Critical Care and Emergency Care physicians who suffer burnout the maximum as against those practicing dermatology and psychiatry & mental health. Burnout in primary care physicians has increased the most since the last decade

With today’s healthcare reforms and regulations, and the ICD-10 coding that have come along with even more codes, all this seems like a never ending headache to any practicing physician. Not only do we physicians have to handle and find time for patients, but now the administrative burden too rests on our shoulders. Moreover, documentation, computerized records, new technology, is all taking its toll on the physicians. Do you know that doctor burnout in some states of the USA can threaten medical healthcare itself? Although physicians are well known to create a buffer protecting their patients against their own burnout, this can cause a host of problems like medication errors and misdiagnosis.

In a recent survey many of the physicians pointed out that bureaucratic task, number of hours at work, income disparity, increasing computerization of work, and a host of other reasons as being responsible for their burnout. Interestingly, the Impact of Affordable Care Act took 5th place, but high up enough among the 14 reasons cited.

So how do you know you, as a physician, are suffering from burnout? Well take a hard look at the 5 below points and if you think you are close to experiencing even two of the five then it’s time to THINK:

  • If you think you have a high tolerance for stress and can keep going- Don’t ignore this first sign
  • Check your environment- is it chaotic? If yes, then you seem to be working in a high stress environment. Make changes, and this will help minimize burnout
  • Are you being the emotional buffer for your patients? Do you talk about your problems to anyone? If not, then you need to find someone to confide in – find a sounding board friend
  • Working more and attending family events less? Pause. They will be others to take care of the patients, go spend quality time with your family & friends. Take that long pending vacation
  • Losing control over work schedule? Suddenly your calendar seems crammed with appointments? Keep some breathing space between seeing patients and attending to administrative tasks

A causal glance at several surveys conducted on physicians in the recent past do show that many practicing physicians plan to seek an early retirement citing the administrative workload and the changing healthcare reforms which are seemingly bringing in less revenues. This makes one think that could there be a decline in healthcare professionals in the future? Very likely, but  with the AMA’s Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability initiative, which has been partnering with physicians, leaders, and policymakers , to bring a change into the lives of physicians to lead a more happy life and thereby provide a much more qualitative care for their patients, the future for the medical practitioner may just not look so bleak in the future!