However you want to frame the issue, it’s a real problem. Disillusioned physicians become overwhelmed, disempowered, and disengaged. I’ve suggested monetary solutions — there are situations that can be helped by both saving and spending money.
I believe fundamental, system-wide changes need to take place that give physicians the autonomy and respect they deserve. However, there are some things that the individual can do in the meantime.
Today’s guest post from Scott Cook looks at a few of those options. His provided bio:
I’m a freelance writer that takes on all sorts of jobs – big and small. I’ve covered everything from healthcare to business leadership and am always looking to educate myself on more subjects. I have a soft spot for entrepreneurship since I’m always dabbling in small business ventures.
I’ve got no business relationship with Mr. Cook. Let’s see what he’s got to say about physician burnout.
5 Tips For Beating Physician Burnout
Burnout is so common in physicians that they should start including it in the job description. According to a lifestyle report conducted by Medscape in 2015, 46% of physicians admit to facing burnout before it’s time to retire. The ages that report the most cases of burnout are between the years of 36 and 55, with more than half of those cases being females.
However, it’s safe to say that the majority of individuals in the medical field experience some level of burnout multiple times throughout the course of their career, regardless of gender and age—and how could you not?
A great portion of healthcare jobs are among the most stressful positions one can have, particularly those that specialize in critical care, family medicine, general surgery, EM, and internal medicine—all of which are the top specialties for physician burnout. With overwhelming stacks of paperwork, back-to-back patients, upsetting cases, and demanding work conditions, it’s no wonder physicians face this problem so frequently.
In this article, we’ll give you a closer look at the causes and effects of physician burnout and provide you with five proven tips you can use to prevent it from hindering your work and putting a damper on your personal life.
What Causes Physician Burnout?
In the Medscape Lifestyle Report, physicians were asked to provide information about what they believed to be the main source of burnout. 56% of participants claimed that the sheer volume of bureaucratic tasks such as charting and filling out paperwork was to blame for their slumps. Unsurprisingly, this part of the job has been the top complaint among healthcare professionals for quite some time now.
Industry experts are continuously making efforts to minimize bureaucratic work with digitized automation and other electronic solutions aimed at making these processes easier, faster, and more convenient; however, ironically enough, 24% of physicians say the increasing computerization is their main cause of burnout.
The second most-voted cause of burnout, at 39%, is spending too many hours at work. A close third is described as a lack of respect from colleagues, staff, and employers. Other popular causes include insufficient compensation, disrespectful patients, government regulations, decreasing reimbursements, and certification requirements.
Needless to say, there are more than enough justifiable reasons for individuals in the medical field to suffer burnout. Unfortunately, these pressing matters can’t easily be avoided, resulting in more than just a lapse in drive and vigor. Of all the physicians that were surveyed, nearly 15% claimed to suffer from depression in addition to burnout.
Effects of Physician Burnout
Even minor cases of burnout can take a toll on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being on the physician, but the effects don’t stop there; burnout also has a noticeably negative impact on personal and workplace relationships.
In the same Medscape study, 42% of participants said burnout causes them to become easily agitated by their colleagues and staff, and they are far less engaged with friends and family.
Not only can burnout harm personal and workplace relationships, but it can also negatively affect patient relationships and the quality of care provided.
Are You Burning Out?
With such a hectic work schedule and the weight of the world on your mind, it’s easy for burnout to creep in and take hold before you even notice it. Ask yourself this list of questions to detect burnout in the early stages before it becomes debilitating.
- Are your muscles and joints aching more than usual? Do your eyes hurt when you wake up in the morning? Do you have a throbbing headache? These signs of physical fatigue are indicative of an overworked body.
- Do your thoughts seem sluggish? Are you having great difficulty focusing on remedial tasks? If so, your mind needs a break.
- Do daily responsibilities and common problems seem too big to face? Have routine tasks become overwhelming? You may be emotionally drained.
- Are you experiencing an increase in negative thoughts? Are you feeling discouraged and hopeless? Do you suddenly feel that your career has come to a halt?
- Has your job performance faltered? Do you feel a lack of interest in your duties or a lack of connection with your colleagues?
5 Tips for Beating Burnout
Beat burnout and prevent its return with these five proven ways to clear your head and stay alert, invested, and happy to go to work.
1) Exercise at Least 3 Times a Week
As a healthcare practitioner, you know how important it is for the body to stay active, but this is also a great way to deter burnout.
By making exercise a part of your weekly routine, you can work out frustrations and release feel-good hormones in the brain, improve your physical health and endurance, and give yourself some much-needed time to clear your head and accomplish personal goals. For the most effective and consistent results, exercise at least three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes.
2) Make Sleep a Priority
Without a sufficient amount of sleep every night, your brain doesn’t have the time it needs to process information and mentally prepare for the next day. In order to avoid physician burnout, you must make sleep a priority and get at least seven to eight hours of quality shut-eye every single night.
Getting to bed at a decent time every night may require some tough changes in your schedule, but it will be worth it when you’re facing each day with a refreshing sense of clarity and confidence.
3) Call a Loved One
Among the physicians Medscape surveyed in their Lifestyle Report, an alarming 36% said they coped with burnout by isolating themselves from others. According to Stephen Ilardi, PhD, author and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, isolation is a depression trap that only worsens the condition.
Make a note in your calendar to call a loved one or meet with a friend for coffee every few days. In doing so, you’ll be able to vent about the stress at work and converse with someone who understands (on some level) what you’re going through. This will help you redirect your focus to other things besides work and will keep you from slipping into an antisocial depression trap.
4) Work Locum Tenens
You may have heard of locum tenens by this point in your career and you should know that it’s a great way to avoid burnout. By working locum tenens, you take on temporary healthcare assignments that are far less burdensome than devoting 60+ hours a week to a demanding, stressful, full-time healthcare position. Some physicians use locum tenens positions to travel, others use short assignments for additional income.
Learn more about locum tenens and take this alternative career path into consideration when physician burnout becomes too heavy to handle.
5) Pursue a New or Forgotten Hobby
One great way to take your mind off work, relax after a long day, and boost your levels of confidence and courage is to pursue a hobby.
Whether you choose to pursue a brand new activity you’ve always wanted to try, or you pick up an old hobby you convinced yourself you didn’t have time for, you’re sure to find a well-deserved break from the weight of your career. Dedicate time to your hobby at least once a week and feel free to switch to something new if you’re not enjoying yourself.
Don’t let physician burnout get the best of you. Learn how to detect it and prevent it so you can continue advancing your career and improving your life.
What are your top tips for preventing physician burnout? I’m sure we can add quite a bit to this list.