How to Tell if You’re Experiencing Physician Burnout

How to Tell if You’re Experiencing Physician Burnout

Physician burnout began well before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 79% of physicians across several specialties identified their burnout symptoms, a finding published in a WebMD/Medscape Market Research report. The cause? Bureaucracy within large systems or countless administrative tasks in private practice takes away a physician's autonomy to practice medicine.

Burnout has become so widespread across the U.S. that as a society, we are in the midst of a new movement: the great resignation. For various reasons, one of which is burnout, people are leaving jobs in record numbers — and this trend is likely to continue.

The question begs — what is burnout, and how do I identify it?

Here are the top signs that you’re experiencing physician burnout:

  • Change in attitude. Increased impatience and irritability, both at and outside work; emotional exhaustion; depersonalizing patients; losing pride in your work; and blaming others for your problems can all be signs that you’re approaching burnout.
  • Loss of work-life balance. It takes ambition to become a doctor, but that ambition can be a double-edged sword. As you continue to take on more and more work and responsibility, you might be neglecting your health, feeling too tired to do much of anything outside of work, and withdrawing from your social networks.
  • Worsening mental health. Depression, anxiety, and feelings of emptiness can start to grow and manifest damaging behaviors to escape your current situation.

Of course, you’re able to identify these things in your patients every day. But, as the old saying goes, physicians make the worst patients. We’re gently asking that you take a second to consider what’s going on. Often it’s hard to look in the mirror, so it may be helpful to reach out to trusted friends or family members and ask for their perspectives. Once you’ve identified that burnout is happening in your life, we hope you’ll hear that help is available. There are the basics for yourself: exercise, eat better, sleep more. On the professional side, here are three things you can do to save yourself time and ease your stress:

  • Learn about and take advantage of EHR shortcuts and time-saving tools
  • Have staff take a more significant role in managing patient portal messages
  • Coordinate with your team to identify potential time-saving solutions

The AAFP has several additional recommendations.

Physician burnout is real and, untreated, dangerous. It’s one of the top reasons that Emergence came to life. We believe that physicians will regain their love for the medical profession by removing the administrative and bureaucratic burdens that are now synonymous with being a physician. We hope to help you reclaim the purity of being a physician.