As a physician, your time is valuable and important, but your wellness often gets overlooked by both you and the people around you. Physician burnout is a very real, very prevalent issue in the healthcare field and it’s time to address it.
Difference Between Stress And Physician Burnout
When you think of the term ‘physician burnout’ it’s likely you also think of the word ‘stress’. While stress does contribute to physician burnout, the two terms are very different. Stress is characterized by over engagement. It’s defined as a state of mental or emotional strain and tension resulting from adverse of very demanding circumstances.
Physician burnout, on the other hand, is the result of excessive stress classified as a cycle of negative emotions, paralysis and withdrawal. It is the mental, emotional, often physical exhaustion that eventually leads to total disengagement.
When you’re simply feeling stressed, it’s likely that you can still see the bright side or the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Conversely, experiencing burnout means you are likely to keep revolving through a negative cycle of emotions.
Now that we know the difference between the two, let’s get into the stressors that cause physicians to develop burnout.
Why Do Physicians Experience Burnout?
Physician burnout is brought on by sometimes invisible daily stressors. Your job is one of the most demanding and stressful careers one can have as it involves a high level of responsibility with very low control over the outcome.
With the stakes so high, who could blame you for feeling the plunder? Here are the most common stressors that contribute to physician burnout:
Working With Sick People All Day
Most of a physician’s day is spent caring for patients who are sick or hurting and in need of help. This emotional stress plays a huge part in physician burnout, as caring for patients all day is a naturally draining experience, even for the most qualified specialists.
Lack of Work-Life Balance
As a physician, you have an important job of caring for people in need. And, like any other career, physicians need to find a sweet spot between their work life and a personal life. Unfortunately, the demanding life of a physician makes it hard for them to find that balance.
While most physicians find their work rewarding enough to revolve their entire lives around it, it’s important that they get adequate time to relax and enjoy time with friends and family.
Of all of the tasks you’re required to complete, things like paperwork and documentation tend to take up the most amount of time. Essentially, physicians are trained to be healthcare providers and care for their patients–not complete hours of administrative work.
Even after the patient appointments and on-call duties are over, the day is not done until the paperwork is complete. This means filling out intake forms for new patients, updating patient charts, and even working on billing practices. All of these duties, in comparison to actual patient care, are menial and less important tasks that can be easily outsourced in order to save time and stress.
With all that being said, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance. Your role in the healthcare industry is important and rewarding–but you can’t help anyone until you’ve helped yourself.
Symptoms of Physician Burnout
If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of your patients? The symptoms of physician burnout include physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Let’s take a look at what each of these mean for a physician:
Physical And Emotional Exhaustion
One of the biggest signs of physician burnout is the evident emotional and physical exhaustion that physicians feel. While stress can drain a physician, burnout can drain you to the point where you aren’t able to bounce back.
Depersonalization begins when you begin to develop a negative and cynical attitude towards your patient’s needs and concerns. This is the stage where you start to feel detached from your patients and your career as a whole.
Reduced Sense of Personal Accomplishment
You became a physician so that you could help others. Your job is important and should feel as rewarding as it truly is. However, physicians who experience burnout often have a tendency to see their work negatively or without meaning–completely negating their purpose and motivation.
How to Prevent Physician Burnout
As we know, physician burnout can be a never-ending cycle that’s tough to get out of. Instead of throwing in the towel, here are a few life-changing tips to help you get back on your feet and loving your job again.
Controlled Work-life Balance
One of the biggest discrepancies that physicians deal with are learning how to balance their work life and personal life. As a physician, it’s important to decide early on what’s most important in your personal life and what’s most important in your professional life. That way if the two worlds collide, it can be easier to decide which takes higher priority.
Studies show that physicians who are happy at home actually perform better in their jobs. Getting adequate amounts of sleep, taking short breaks when you’re running low on energy or simply asking for assistance are all ways to lower your stress and ultimately mitigate burnout.
Adaptability in the Office
Your job is far from simple. Allow for some twists and turns down the road. Be willing to go with the flow and, if possible, plan for things in advance.
This goes back to prioritizing your work and personal lives. Knowing what’s most important to you will help you make decisions on what to do when a challenge arises and will ultimately make the situation less stressful.
Supportive and Collaborative Team
Wellness doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without some support. You know the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Well, it also takes a village to care for our physicians. With all of the work and stress the role of a physician entails, there’s no way to mitigate burnout on your own.
Be willing to ask for help from your fellow physicians, your practice and even your family and friends. Feeling supported and understood is a great way to feel like the world isn’t just on your shoulders. Additionally, fostering a collaborative, patient-based office culture–rather than one that runs hierarchical and competitively–can lower stress for everyone in the practice.
This supportive environment will create less stress for all physicians at your practice, making them much less likely to experience physician burnout.
There are so many tasks that physicians are supposed to complete in their day-to-day routines. Because each duty requires your undivided attention and articulation, it’s imperative that you not spread yourself too thin. As mentioned previously, administrative work is a huge time consumer and a very real contributor to physician burnout.
One of the biggest, most time consuming responsibilities is updating patient charts and documenting health records. Hiring a medical transcription service can save you time, thus allowing you more time to care for patients and to care for yourself.
In addition to mitigating physician burnout, these are some of the additional benefits of hiring a medical transcription service for your practice:
Hiring a transcription company can actually save your practice money. With less money spent on administrative tasks and more spent on patient care and moral, you’re likely to find your job more rewarding.
It cannot be stressed enough that the purpose of a physician’s job is to care for their patients. With more time to do that, physicians are not only able to help more patients, but they’re also able to provide better quality care.
A physician’s main focus is to care for their patients. Marking down every last detail of a patient’s symptoms or medical history not only takes away from the doctor-patient relationship, but it can also be a distraction during the patient’s appointment.
With a team of transcriptionists working on entering data into the EHR (Electronic Health Record) system, you can rest assured that the information will be accurate and concise. This leaves more time to care for your patients and more time to care for yourself.
The role of a physician is a tough one. Partnering with the right medical transcription company can be just the thing to help lighten the load. Visit our website to learn more about how medical transcription services can help you and your team of physicians.
Want to learn more about protecting your physicians against burnout? Download our guide Successful Strategies To Mitigate Burnout At Your Practice below.
Nathaniel Smathers, is contributor to the DataMatrix Medical blog with a background in healthcare content creation for over a decade. Nathaniel has a passion for exploring the intersections of healthcare, data analysis, and digital innovation.