Physician burnout has been a problem for a very long time…perhaps for as long as there have been physicians. After all, these professionals work long hours and have a very difficult job – one that, quite literally, is a matter of life or death.

However, instead of getting better over the years, physician burnout seems to have gotten worse. Nowadays, people can connect with doctors instantly, doctors can work from anywhere, and all kinds of information, from patient emails to treatment plans, can be accessed and created at any time.

While these types of technologies are designed to make physician’s lives easier, for many, they actually make it so that these professionals never seem to stop working or go, go, going.

One thing is for sure – something must be done about this problem.

Physician Burnout is Quickly Turning into an Epidemic

While people often think of physician burnout as something that is just an unavoidable byproduct of the job, it’s actually a growing and more concerning issue than most realize.

Recent statistics show that as much as 30% of physicians are leaving medicine due to burnout, while as much as 55% will retire early for these same reasons.

And, while physicians have all kinds of reasons for why they’ve experienced burnout, here are some of the more common issues cited:

  • Having too much clerical/side work to do on top of their physician’s duties
  • Feeling isolated from colleagues
  • Too many insurance related requirements
  • Too many requirements and requests from drug companies
  • Federal and state mandates

While these things cannot be avoided entirely, something does need to be done so that all of the burdens and the hard work isn’t falling squarely on the shoulders of physicians who already have way too much on their plates.

Physicians Complain of Too much Paperwork

One major suggestion physicians give for helping to avoid burnout is finding a way for physicians themselves to do less paperwork.

Every one hour spent with patients typically equals one or two hours of related paperwork, which means a lot of extra work and a lot more stress.

What’s worse is that the more stressed and burnt out doctors are, the more likely it is that they will make dangerous errors or oversights that could potentially harm patients and others.

For this reason and for the health, sanity, and overall well-being of the nation’s doctors, physicians are crying out for a change in how things are done.

What is Being Done about This Epidemic of Physician Burnout?

Physician burnout has been a known problem for a very long time, but it’s only been in recent years that people are really stepping up and attempting to do something about it.

Both Banner Health and UC Health Systems are making strides in addressing and treating physician burnout.

Both organizations have created burnout support groups and are also working to find solutions for reducing the amount of paperwork and computer work that physicians have to do. Both organizations agree that a doctor’s real work is with their patients, not with paperwork.

UC Health, in particular, has made efforts to hire more medical assistants. These professionals do the paperwork and note-taking parts of the job for the doctors, allowing the doctors to focus on what matters most: patient care.

Other strategies the organizations are enacting include the development of a wellness group, a physician’s leadership group, compassion fatigue classes, emotional intelligence training, and new primary care models that are designed to reduce burnout.

The programs are already proving to be highly effective and will hopefully pave the way toward more of such programs in the future and, by extension, an improvement of the medical field as a whole.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Burnout

If you are a physician or someone else involved in the health field, and you’re reading this, you may be wondering if you are struggling from burnout yourself.

While that’s really a question that only you can answer, here are some indicators that you may be suffering from or at least heading toward burnout:

  • You feel drained and constantly tired
  • You dread going to work
  • You have trouble falling or staying asleep
  • You are constantly forgetting things
  • You have difficulty concentrating
  • You seem to be getting sick more often
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased irritability
  • A generally pessimistic outlook on life
  • Poor work performance

If you are struggling with any of these issues, it may be a good idea to talk to someone in the workplace about what you’re experiencing. Find out if there are programs in place that can help you to cope with burnout and to overcome it.

By taking advantage of any such resources and by making a concentrated effort to take better care of yourself, you can avoid and even overcome burnout.

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