Taking a Look at Physician Burnout

stressed person

Burnout is characterized by a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive and unrelenting stress. It can affect anyone from all walks of life. But studies reveal that burnout most often occurs among those in the healthcare profession, such as people in the nursing, medicine, social work, and teaching fields.

Over the last 25 years, numerous studies have also revealed that career fatigue is most prevalent among doctors than any other professions. In fact, a survey shows that burnout rates among U.S. doctors are topping at 54.4% with one in three physicians reporting at least one symptom of burnout.

Doctors spend most of their time understanding and solving health issues for their patients that, oftentimes, their own issues get overlooked. Burnout prevention and stress management are also not covered in detail in medical school or training. Consequently, incidences of burnout are increasing among physicians at an alarming rate.

How can physicians defeat burnout? Here are some measures they can look into:

Medical Practice Management Companies

In a national MDVIP physician health survey conducted last 2017, the main contributors to physician stress, which are also taking their focus away from attending to their patients, are as follows : 74% due to paperwork, 43% attributed to new technologies, 39% caused by long working hours, and 35% associated with a lack of time with patients.

This is where employing the services of medical practice management companies comes in. A practice management company is generally a business entity that provides non-clinical services to physicians to enable them to concentrate and devote themselves to high-quality patient care. These services range from billing to human resources management to compliance and liability reduction. These companies are able to provide support on key areas that contribute to physician burnout, such as documentation and regulatory burdens and inadequate administrative staffing, allowing physicians to focus on doing work for which they are trained for.

Creating an Open Forum

A 2016 study by Shailesh Kumar shows that burnout may be prevented by creating a positive work environment, which can help doctors achieve work−life balance. Last year, a program fostering a supportive environment between residents was created by Hima Alam, M.D. and Joseph Doria, M.D., at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The group is focused on instilling more positive energy among its members for them to avoid the pitfalls of prolonged stress and burnout. Aside from coming together to put in strategic ideas geared toward favorable changes, the members can also talk freely about their concerns and any personal pain points without the fear of retaliation or negative reactions from colleagues and superiors.

Since its inception, many incremental improvements have resulted from their meetings, like residents being able to go home early to spend time with their personal life, updates in shift rotation practices, time dedicated for independent studies, and an annual out-of-office program retreat. Unfortunately, similar interventional programs are missing from most corners of health care.

Personal Resilience

a free-spirited woman

The same study by Kumar shows that enhancing resilience at an individual doctor level may help prevent physician burnout. Personal resilience is defined as the set of skills and behavior that contribute to an individual’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Just like any other person, it is important for doctors to pursue healthy behavior and attitude. There are a number of strategies that can help them manage and reduce stress at an individual level; for example, indulging in physical activities, optimal nutrition, and sleep. In light of studies showing that physician burnout negatively affects patient care, healthcare leaders are now searching for ways to help their doctors enjoy practicing medicine again and their patients getting the attention they deserve.

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