The image of a tired, bedraggled physician sinking into a chair at the end of a long day is a common one. Ever increasing demands on physician time from paperwork to patient interaction is taking its toll. In the words of Dike Drummond, M.D. “burnout transforms 1/3 of practicing physicians worldwide into the walking wounded on any given day.”
Physician Poll ~ What factors cause burnout?
We polled our doctors recently about what the most likely factor is to cause burnout. The top three responses are:
- 40% work-life imbalance
- 33% lack of control
- 19% dysfunctional workplace
Physician pressures truly are unique. They are expected to have near perfect diagnostic skills, a great bedside manner, and the ability to do it all in the barely 10 minutes they actually get to see a patient one-to-one.
The pressures, according to Dike Drummond, M.D., also knows as The Happy MD can leave physicians feeling physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and cynicism with patients, and a reduced sense of value as a physician.
Speaking to the work-life imbalance that so many physicians pegged as the number one reason for burnout, Drummond writes,
“Medicine has a powerful tendency to become ‘the career that ate my brain’, pushing all other life priorities to the side. Our training reinforces our innate workaholic tendencies. As we get older, with more family responsibilities, the tension between work and our larger life is a major stressor for many. Lack of training in how to create and maintain boundaries – this time between work and life – is a part of this perfect recipe for physician burnout.”
The New York Times recently suggested mindfulness as a prescription for physician burnout. The researchers suggested something called “two feet, one breath.” Pausing for a moment before entering an exam room and breathing deeply while feeling firmly planted on the floor through your feet. Their study found that a bare minimum of mindfulness training decreased the feelings of burnout and that the effects lasted as long as a year later with no “booster trainings.”
Many doctors also combat burnout by reducing work hours, creating better boundaries between work and home, and by using their friends and family for support.
As a physician, how do you combat burnout? Have you noticed a difference when you treat patients and feel burned out? Have you helped a colleague deal with it? This is a common topic of conversation inside our physician community. If you’re an M.D. or a D.O. please join us, online support can be part of your arsenal.