Physician Burnout - The What, Why and How

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How Concerning is Physician Burnout Today?

While there are many different types of professions and employment positions that cause workers to feel burnt out and detached, those working in the medical profession and within the healthcare industry experience alarmingly high rates of burnout. Physicians, doctors, and nurses alike experience some of the highest turnover rates in the United States.

According to a report by the Mayo Clinic, in partnership with the American Medical Association, more than half of physicians in the United States experience burnout. This study was conducted over a period of three years from 2011 through 2014. Even more alarming than the overall number of physicians who have reported an experienced burnout, is the fact that this number grew throughout all three years.

Before hospitals and healthcare providers can figure out a way to prevent physician burnout, they must understand why it occurs in the first place.

What are the Symptoms and Causes of Physician Burnout?

Burnout symptoms include chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, and can even bring on symptoms of anxiety or depression. Burnout occurs when an individual feels severely stressed out and overwhelmed. Oftentimes, they self-heal by detaching themselves from the stressful/overwhelming environment. Burnout is extremely prevalent among physicians in the healthcare industry because of the nature of the environment.

The Mayo Clinic/AMA study officially defined burnout as, “loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment.” In other words, burnout is much more than simply feeling tired and overwhelmed. Although these feelings most certainly are present, the overall symptoms are far more detrimental to an individual’s overall mental health.

What is Being Done to Address and Treat Physician Burnout?

While burnout is almost an inevitable experience among physicians, there are some solutions for physician burnout. Among them, would be to design an effective diagnostic process to help identify burnout before it occurs.

Studies have suggested that the population of physicians be targeted for intervention strategies aimed at developing behavior patterns that can alter the culture of physicians and healthcare workers. In addition, hospital administrations are endlessly working to ensure physicians are not frequently overloaded in terms of patient care. They have implemented and adopted new and emerging technologies to increase efficiency and improve the overall workflow for physicians.

Additionally, other studies have shown that increased job satisfaction among physicians themselves can ultimately result in higher, more positive rates of patient satisfaction. If physician burnout can be prevented or limited further in any capacity, it is likely to have positive implications in terms of patient satisfaction. This could, in part, be due to the fact that a physician who has not yet experienced symptoms of burnout is more likely to perform their job functions more efficiently and effectively than a physician who has experienced or is currently experiencing symptoms of burnout thus increasing overall patient satisfaction.

While the causes of physician burnout have been well-documented, solutions for physician burnout must be further explored to prevent this debilitating experience for physicians throughout hospitals and healthcare clinics in the United States. In addition, further understanding exactly how burnout can affect a physician’s job performance is crucial in order for healthcare providers to increase their patient satisfaction ratings. Ultimately, the healthcare industry should work to protect both their physicians and their patients.