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    How To Identify (and Fight!) Physician Burnout

    Last year, we wrote this article about boosting workplace morale in your healthcare practice. As physician burnout continues to be a growing issue in the U.S., we’re turning our focus to helping individual physicians who are feeling burnt out.

    According to this study from Mayo Clinic, the number of physicians who experience burnout is growing year over year.

    Burnout among doctors is generally described in terms of a loss of enthusiasm for one’s work, a decline in satisfaction and joy, and an increase in detachment, emotional exhaustion, and cynicism. It manifests in disproportionately high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

    Source: Harvard Health blog

    Not only are physicians burning out at higher rates, but their satisfaction with work-life balance is also decreasing–this trend is across all specialties, across the U.S., and across the physician lifecycle.

    Major Causes of Physician Burnout

    Compared to the rest of the U.S. working population, physicians are at an increased risk for burnout and less likely to be satisfied with their work-life balance. Increasing workload, chaotic work environments, decreasing pay, menial tasks that take you away from patient care, and “feeling like a cog in the machine” are all factors that contribute to physician burnout.

    A lot of physicians we talk to are frustrated about the amount of working hours they’re spending on tasks outside of patient care. Between EHR and documentation to protect against malpractice suits, the paperwork seems never-ending.

    And the non-face-to-face work continues to grow. In 2010, physicians had 1.5 hours of clerical work daily. Now, physicians can expect 2 hours of paperwork for every hour in front of a patient. Many physicians spend an additional 1–2 hours daily doing additional computer and clerical work outside of working hours.

    How Physician Burnout Affects Patient Care

    Physicians’ health matters, not only to the physicians themselves but also to their patients. It’s a no-brainer: Physician burnout leads to a decrease in quality and safety of care for patients–meaning less-satisfied patients and more expensive healthcare.

    As physicians become exhausted, they withdraw emotional energy from work, leading to depersonalization. This conservation of resources can also lead to providers spending less time with patients, and potentially becoming more directive than collaborative and patient-centered. Williams and colleagues describe a cyclical model whereby burnout negatively affects the quality of the patient encounter, leading to dissatisfied patients, poor adherence, and worse health outcomes, which can cause additional provider burnout.

    Source: NCBI

    What to Do If You’re Feeling Burnt Out

    If you’re feeling burnt out, you’re not alone. 54.5% of doctors experience at least one symptom of burnout, and “feeling overworked” is a key contributor. Doctors are some of the busiest and most overworked people in any industry.

    So, how does a physician avoid feelings of burnout? Spend at least one day a week motivated by at least one of these intentions:

    Find meaning in your work
    Be a helper
    Be a teacher
    Build a successful practice
    Find new discoveries

    We also spoke to some experienced physicians about their resilience strategies during times of high stress or feelings of burnout. Their advice to other physicians experiencing these issues included: having self-awareness and time for reflection; accepting your professional boundaries; appreciating and focusing on the positive things; taking interest in the person beyond their symptoms.

    To help you focus on progressing forward and making a difference, we challenge you to ask yourself 2 questions at the end of an especially trying work day:

    What's 1 thing you learned today?

    Who's 1 person you helped today?

    We believe in physicians, and the positive benefits good healthcare and patient care bring to the community–and we want you to stay healthy. So, how will you find joy in your work life this year? Let us know!

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