How to Prevent Physician Burnout in Your Healthcare Practice
Research shows that 1 in every 3 doctors is experiencing a level of physician burnout across all medical specialties. That’s a sad reality considering the consequences of burnout, such as lower patient satisfaction, higher rates of medical errors, physician turnover, and mental illness struggles among practitioners. In the U.S., healthcare businesses lose about $4.6 billion because of physician burnout every year.
What is Physician Burnout?
Physician burnout constitutes the detrimental physical, psychological, and behavioral effects that practitioners may experience due to working in a highly stressful healthcare setting. It often results in extremely exhausted, depersonalized, and less effective physicians.
Physician Burnout Symptoms
The 3 diagnostic symptoms of physician burnout are:
1. Exhaustion: When you have burnout, you’re physically and mentally exhausted. At some point, your body and mind begin signaling you may not have sufficient energy to keep going.
2. Frustration with patients due to depersonalization: You are frustrated and may sometimes project it onto patients or their families. This can look like using sarcastic language and failing to show compassion.
3. Lost sense of purpose or efficacy: You’re unhappy with the status quo in your work environment and feel that it may cause you to make a medical error. You may find yourself questioning your ability to make an impact in health care.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Physician Burnout
Burnout drains your energy and makes you feel tired even after resting. It interferes with your sleep and causes unpleasant changes in your body, such as lowering your appetite or immunity. Frequent headaches and back/muscle pain can also occur.
Emotional Signs and Symptoms of Physician Burnout
After losing motivation, you become unusually cynical, and the future may look gloomy. Your work satisfaction levels have declined, and your personal life no longer brings you joy or relief either. With self-doubt comes a sense of helplessness and defeat.
Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Physician Burnout
Your sense of responsibility is disappearing. When not procrastinating tasks, you’re skipping work or reporting late. You’re angry and self-isolating often, and when you’re around your co-workers or patients, you’re cold and lack sensibility with them. You may sometimes lash out on your loved ones, staff, or colleagues.
Physician Burnout by Specialty
According to a 2019 report by Medscape, urologists had the highest rates of physician burnout at 54%, followed closely by neurologists (53%), and physical therapists/rehabilitation specialists (52%). Their internal medicine and emergency medicine counterparts were fourth and fifth on the list of physician burnout by specialty at 49% and 48%, respectively.
Public health and preventive medicine were the least impacted medical specialty at 28%, followed by nephrology (32%) and pathology (33%). That year, 34% of ophthalmologists reported experiencing physician burnout.
Causes of Physician Burnout
Here are the 6 common physician burnout causes:
1. The stressful nature of clinical medicine
Working with the sick, injured, or dying and their families every day can cause a heavy emotional and physical toll on practitioners across medical specialties. The feeling that there isn’t much you can do and stress from enormous responsibilities are a part of a physician’s life that can cause burnout.
2. Your specific work environment
Your particular healthcare job generates unique stresses that may eventually cause physician burnout. Regardless of your practice model, stress factors like “office politics,” pay structure, personal call rotations, and relationships with fellow caregivers can affect your energy levels.
3. Not replenishing your energy levels outside work
There isn’t enough emphasis on the need for physicians to spend time outside of work to address their physical, emotional, and spiritual health needs. Stress factors like financial pressure and family problems at home can also deny practitioners the chance to recharge their body, mind, and soul.
4. The superhero, patient comes first mindset
Physician burnout can escalate from a doctor ignoring its early signs and symptoms. To some, acknowledging exhaustion feels like a sign of weakness, while other may feel that taking a deserved and necessary break from work is abandoning their responsibilities as a physician.
5. Leadership deficiencies in healthcare management
Your work satisfaction can suffer if your immediate supervisor is often unavailable or lacks leadership skills. As a result, you may constantly feel unhappy and stressed, which can contribute to physician burnout.
6. Worrying about your online reputation
The risk of receiving negative patient feedback concerns 90% of healthcare professionals. Their anxiety isn’t misplaced since 81% of patients include online physician reviews in their provider selection criteria, and 40% will ignore poorly reviewed practices. Most of them (75%) prefer seeing doctors with at least a 4-star rating.
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Physician Burnout Solutions
Here are some practical steps you can take to prevent physician burnout in healthcare:
Step 1: Spend more time with each patient
This allows you to provide better quality, personalized care to each patient, and improves patient relationship and satisfaction. Happy patients are more likely to give your practice positive online reviews.
Step 2: Make room for quality family time
Proper work and life balance can help prevent physician burnout. It involves making enough time to share happy, relaxed moments with your family.
Step 3: Get peer support
Find like-minded groups or a mentor with similar work experiences for private discussions about coping with physician burnout.
Step 4: Exercise regularly
Dedicate at least 30 minutes of exercise and get enough sleep each day to boost your mood and keep your weight in check.
Step 5: Choose an all-in-one online reputation management platform
With RepuGen, you can automatically generate, track, and manage your online patient reviews. This way, negative reviews become much less of a stress trigger for you and your team.
There’s a direct relationship between energetic and happy caregivers and patient satisfaction. If you operate a healthcare business, you can enhance your entire team’s productivity and ability to give quality care by combating physician burnout. Keep an eye out for signs of chronic exhaustion and take the recommended steps to prevent a downward spiral.