Physician Burnout: Learn the Warning Signs and Prevention Tips

While you were in college and in medical school, your life pretty much consisted of studying and exams. There was hardly room for any type of social life but you knew you were up for that when made the decision to enter medical school; it was a sacrifice you were willing to make. But even during those times, as a medical student, you experienced a mild version of burnout with all the studying you had to do and once you graduated, you thought you had escaped the rigors of burnout… In the world of medicine, burnout is a constant that can consume you if you let it.

That’s why it’s so important that medical students have a passion for medicine versus picking fields of medicine that pay the most money because burnout has made many physicians quit all because they pursued medicine for the wrong reasons… Now, don’t get things confused, burnout is a serious situation but if you really love practicing medicine, it not something that will make you completely stop practicing.

Most medical students today have no idea what burnout is and what it can be like as a physician. The inescapable aspect of physician burnout is that it’s experienced in every medical field, whether you’re looking for jobs in family medicine or looking for a job as a surgeon, you’re going to experience burnout at some point in your career but that’s no reason to stop doing what you love. Ultimately, anyone who has a job runs the risk of experiencing burnout but the key to getting a handle on it is knowing the warning signs and prevention.

What is Burnout and What are the Warning Signs?

Burnout is a state of extreme stress felt physically, mentally, and emotionally. This level of stress typically occurs when one feels overwhelmed, over-worked, and unable to meet the high demands of their job. Physicians experience this more often than you would think. Some typical warning signs of physician burnout include:

  • Emotional Exhaustion: You are completely exhausted and drained when you get off of work and can’t even enjoy your time away from work because it has taken that much out of you. Your desire for anything has just faded.
  • Depersonalization: You have a negative attitude and find it harder each day to make positive connections with your patients. You have an “I don’t care” attitude.
  • Reduced Accomplishment: You start to come down on yourself feeling that you’re not a good doctor anymore and the care you provide isn’t helping your patients.

As a physician trying to be cognitive of these warning signs, just try to remember that sometimes physician burnout occurs differently in female physicians than it does in male physicians. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, female physicians tend to experience all three of the warning signs in that exact order while male physicians first experience depersonalization and then emotional exhaustion but not experience reduced accomplishment at all.

So, if you’ve noticed some of these warning signs within yourself, what should you do? How can you prevent physician burnout before it consumes you?

Physician Burnout Prevention Tips

Find a Stress Reliever and Make Time to Relieve Your Stress

If you’ve experienced any of these warning signs even once, you need to nip it in the bud because the next time you experience it it’s only going to get worse. You need to find some kind of release where you can let go of your work-related stress. For some physicians, they have a guilty pleasure of reality TV shows but never have time to watch them because they’re constantly working. Then some really enjoy getting massages but of course, never have time to do it. For your own sanity, you have to make time for the things you enjoy. Leave the office early or take a day off.

Go on a Vacation

Who doesn’t love a good vacation? Sometimes the very thing you need is a getaway, even if it’s just a short one. Although you love your patients and want to provide the best care possible for them, who’s providing the best care possible for you? You have to do that. Sometimes the open road, the beach, or the mountains is what will bring you back to life.

Learn How to Say “No”

As a physician, saying no can be one of the hardest things to do but it’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself and your health. Will you disappoint colleagues? Probably so but having the strength to say no to things you know you can’t do will reduce stress all in itself.