10 Jan Burnout: One Big Reason Why Physicians are Leaving the Field
With the stresses of physician shortages, long working hours, more paperwork and less time to actually treat patients, practicing medicine can lead to depression, anxiety, a decrease in job satisfaction and a loss of empathy. In other words, “burnout”. Examples of this phenomena include:
- According to the National Library of Medicine physicians in specialties such as emergency medicine, family medicine, and general internal medicine are at greatest risk.
- A 2023 Medscape survey of 9,100 physicians found burnout among clinicians at a high of 53%.
- An AMA survey stated that 56% of doctors under the age of 35 are unhappy with their profession.
The impact of physician burnout on the quality of the American healthcare system is substantial – often resulting in medical errors, lower quality of care, decreased productivity, and inadequate patient outcomes.
The reasons for burnout most often cited by physicians include feeling overwhelmed by administrative tasks, long shifts, increased number of patients, a perceived lack of support from administrators, poor job fulfillment leading to a sense of inadequacy or failure, and unsatisfactory work/life balance.
All of which has led to an emerging phenomenon called “pajama time”. This refers to physicians working additional hours at home to catch up on paperwork and other administrative tasks.
While there’s growing enthusiasm for system – level changes to address physician burnout, greater progress is needed. And while solving the problem of physician burnout is a higher-priority issue than ever before – there is currently no magic bullet that will completely fix the problem.
However on a positive note, self-care has been identified as the first line of defense for physicians experiencing acute stress – and looking for answers. Examples of self-care techniques include:
· Setting Realistic Goals
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to perform or achieve but setting unrealistic goals can lead to feelings of inadequacy and burnout. Set achievable, realistic professional goals that align with your values, priorities, and availability. You can always set new ones once you’ve achieved what you’re currently striving for!
· Prioritizing Self-Care
Put into practice the self-care strategies that have worked in the past during times of stress. These can include getting enough sleep every day, finding respite time during or after work, eating meals on a schedule, practicing stress reduction like meditation or yoga, incorporating breathing exercises, engaging in physical activity and staying in contact with family and friends.
· Maintaining Healthy Workplace Boundaries
Having well-defined boundaries during shifts can prevent burnout by helping set limits on your time and energy – both physical and emotional. It’s important to know when to say “no” instead of taking on additional responsibilities so that you can take better control of your professional life.
· Performing Regular Self-Check-ins
Monitor your feelings for symptoms of depression/stress disorder such as prolonged sadness, difficulty sleeping, intrusive memories, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, etc. Talk to a trusted colleague or supervisor. Sometimes the best course of action is to seek professional help if symptoms persist or worsen over time.
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