Are Doctors Workaholics?


A recent SERMO poll asked our doctors if they considered themselves workaholics.  While 54 percent answered yes, a strong majority, 46 percent, said they happily were not.

As one physician put it, “I believe I am a workaholic due to circumstances and would be happy not to be one … much of it stems from a reality of expenses and uncertainty of our future, with a desire to save for an early exit.”

Definition of a workaholic

Many physicians noted the difference between working hard and being a workaholic.  Per Wikipedia, a workaholic is addicted to work.  The term implies the person enjoys their work, but they feel a compulsion to do it above other activities and social relationships.

Many doctors noted workaholic tendencies form during med school and residency.  A medical school program is long hours of memorization.  Internship and residency are now capped at 80-hour work weeks, far above the average American work week of  47 hours.  One surgeon wrote, “The workaholic component I suffer from comes from good old-fashioned abusive general surgery training.  Rule 1 – trust no one.  Rule 2 – if you want something done correctly, do it yourself.”

But many can just turn it off as they head out for the day.  An osteopath wrote, “I’ve never been a workaholic.  Always give it my all while at work, but never felt the need to be at work when I had no need to be.  Some people thrive on work, the more the better.  I like my time off.”

Physician Burnout

Physician burnout is quite real, doctors often talk about the factors that contribute to burnout.  From a bigger perspective, US doctors don’t make as much as their counterparts around the globe when you factor in time off and hours worked per week.

As a physician do you consider yourself a workaholic?  What do you do to beat stress on the job?  We frequently talk about this topic inside the Sermo community, if you’re an MD or DO please join us.


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