What is physician burnout? Why should it be important to you?

What is physician burnout?  It’s not a disease but a syndrome highlighted by exhaustion, cynicism, and decreased sense of efficacy.  This is job-related.  In contrast, depression is across work and home environments.

Why is physician burnout important to you?  After YEARS of training, your physician may leave their career and leave you as their patient.  Your physician may have less empathy for you due to their overwhelming feeling of burnout. 

Burnout can be measured: Maslach burnout (emotional exhaustion where work makes us feel tired). This is different from depression.  When you have burnout, you may be happy when NOT at work.  There are additional features: Depersonalization (callous). Lack of personal accomplishment (need to feel that work is worthwhile) and Mini-Z (10 questions). 

What most contributes to physician burnout?  Too many bureaucratic tasks. Toxic work culture. Lack of control over schedule. Burnout is often not a money issue.

How to we cope?  Exercise. Isolating from others (we need people to “see us.”)   Not reaching out is a red flag.

How do we mitigate it? Physician burnout is a system issue, not an individual issue.  Fix the underlying problem.  Less bureaucratic. Less paperwork.

It is time to not hold physicians independently responsible for their burnout.  There is no amount of exercise or yoga that will battle physician burnout.  It is moral injury to be unable to help patients due to bureaucratic load. Insurance companies are piling on the administrative duties like requiring prior authorizations, peer-to-peer consultations.

Suicide rate is 2.3X for physicians versus 1.4X in the general population.

How to get to the bottom of what is individually important?  What is our carrot (versus stick)?  And, what is our goal? Do the choices that we are make honor our values?

What would help most to reduce your burnout?  Better be able to negotiate schedule.

How to create a culture of wellness?  Create a work environment with a set or normative values, attitudes, and behaviors that promote self-care.  Be efficient in your patient charting/paperwork.  Personal resilience.

How do we keep happy?

  • Build relationships! 
  • Work on family, fitness, fatigue. We often work in reverse order and do the least-enjoyable aspects of our life first.  There are no do-overs.
  • Learn to say no. 
  • Schedule family vacations a year in advance.
  • Eat dinner with your family 5 times per week. 

About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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