Earlier this year, the online news outlet for the American Medical Association published some startling, but not surprising, information: Work-related burnout among physicians is pervasive–and getting worse.
According to a survey of nearly 7,000 physicians conducted by the AMA and the Mayo Clinic showed that an alarming 45 percent of physicians met the criteria for burnout in 2011. When a follow-up study was conducted last year, 54 percent of the physicians who responded showed at least one sign of burnout, which includes feeling exhausted, detached from patients, or cynical and stressed.
What’s so startling about the study is that burnout among the “normal population” is only about 25 percent. This means physicians are nearly two times more likely to suffer from burnout than the people for whom they care.
The study made headlines and grabbed the attention of medical professionals and ultimately raised two questions:
• Who cares for the caregivers?
• What can be done to prevent physician burnout?
The answers to the questions are intertwined. Physicians need both personal and professional strategies to prevent physician burnout. Here’s a few strategies you can use to avoid this issue:
Take time for yourself
Sometimes it can be difficult to escape the pressures of your practice, but making time for outside endeavors is incredibly important to preventing physician burnout. Your hobbies allow you to decompress and think about something other than patient care. If you don’t take time for yourself, the cumulative effect of increased work hours could lead to mental and even physical problems–and burnout. Sometimes it is necessary to put your own needs before those of the patient. So read, exercise, go fishing and reconnect with your hobbies.
Develop a support system
Physicians are trained to help people during their worst moments. Physicians must, on some level, remain detached in order to help patients achieve the best possible outcomes. However, physicians are also human. You’re not immune to the emotional challenges associated with difficult and complex cases. That’s why it’s important for you to develop a support system comprised of people you respect, people with whom you can debrief cases, discuss emotional experiences and decompress.
Having people in your life with whom you can discuss the emotional aspects of the profession is an effective way to manage stress and identify the signs of physician burnout before they become acute.
Be smart about your schedule
Today’s physicians are incredibly overworked. Waiting rooms are typically full and insurance companies seem to increasingly value quantity over quality when it comes to patient contacts. However, most practices have times of the year when there are lulls. Take time off during these periods. Getting out of the office when possible–rather than being “trapped” with a light schedule–provides opportunities to re-charge your batteries.
It’s likely that you have talked to your patients about the importance of exercise. Now it’s time to listen to your own advice–and do it for all the reasons you share with patients. Do it for the endorphins! Do it for the improved sleep! Do it for the reduced stress and anxiety! But most importantly, do it for yourself and to prevent physician burnout.
Sometimes solving the burnout issue can be as easy as finding the right tools to make your day run smoothly. If that sounds like something that would help make your day more productive, consider downloading our free Physician Resources Sheet below.
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