Isn’t it ironic that those tasked with caring for the masses are also the ones who are in need of the most care themselves? That’s now the case for most physicians. Because of their contributions to the healthcare system, interest in their well-being has increased. There is a growing recognition that physicians are exposed to workplace factors that can increase the risk of work stress. Long term exposure to these work stress can ultimately result in burnout.
So, what can physicians do to prevent burnout?
What is physician burnout?
The healthcare industry can be pretty hectic with its packed work days, demanding work schedule, and time pressures. This can cause physicians to be at a high risk for burnout. According to a survey of more than 15,000 doctors in the United States, about 42% of physicians report feeling burned out. Additionally, 15% of all physicians admitted to experiencing either clinical or colloquial forms of depression. This is very alarming.
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. When this happens, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation surrounding the things that you love. This will affect your productivity and the quality of care that you provide your patients.
However, it is important to note that physician burnout doesn’t happen overnight. You just don’t wake up one morning and experience burnout. It slowly builds up over time. Still, our bodies recognize and give us warning signs so that we can do something about it before it’s too late.
What are the signs of physician burnout?
There are a number of early symptoms of physician burnout that should be addressed. If you pay attention to these early warning signs, you can prevent a major breakdown. It is critical that you don’t ignore these signs as it might result to a full scale breakdown or worse, depression. The signs and symptoms of physician burnout can be categorized as physical, emotional, and behavioral.
Physical signs of physician burnout
If you feel burned out, your physical level is extremely low and in a downward spiral. Most likely, you feel exhausted and tired all the time. You will also likely not be motivated to work, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day. Aside from that, you will also have recurring headaches and frequent back pains as a result of too much stress. Furthermore, you will slowly lose your appetite, and might even skip a few meals. In the later stages, you may lose your appetite altogether and begin to lose a significant amount of weight.
A burnout might also affect your sleeping habits. You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week. You will always be thinking of the number of tasks you have to do in the office; this will also keep you up at night. If you feel any of these symptoms, you need to seek medical help from professionals.
Emotional signs of physician burnout
Your emotions are also affected when you experience burnout. You are usually confronted with a feeling of uselessness and hopelessness when you are in this state. It presents a general sense that nothing is going right and nothing matters. As the symptoms worsens, these thoughts may become immobilizing and you might think that everything you do doesn’t matter anymore. You might also feel disconnected from others, especially from your colleagues and your family members. At first, it might just be a mild resistance to socializing. However, in the later stage, it may escalate to being angry when someone talks to you or you just don’t want to talk to anyone else. This negative outlook on life will lead to feeling trapped and worse, it can lead to severe depression.
Behavioral signs of physician burnout
The behavioral signs and symptoms of physician burnout deeply compromises patient care. There is good evidence that physician burnout results in more expensive healthcare and less satisfied patients. This is due to a lack of productivity and poor performance. The chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were, which often results in incomplete projects and a long to do list that doesn’t get completed. If you feel like you can’t climb out from under the pile, you will start making mistakes and withdrawing from your responsibilities, affecting your work.
What drives physician burnout?
From the survey mentioned above, physicians revealed a number of reasons they feel burned out. A few of the top reasons include spending too many hours at work, increased computerization of practice, and insufficient compensation. But the leading cause of physician burnout, as mentioned by more than half of the physicians, is that they have “too many bureaucratic tasks.” And any physician will tell you, administrative and clinical tasks can be frustrating, overwhelming and draining. Physicians want to focus on their patients, not admin tasks.
So, what can be done to prevent this?
Outsourcing some of your administrative tasks, such as your medical billing and medical transcription to medical services company, can be beneficial. If you do this, all of your operations will be handled off-site and this will increase your efficiency and productivity. Furthermore, you can spend more time concentrating on providing quality care to patients. And you’ll be able to save thousands of dollars annually if you choose to outsource some of your operations. Here’s how you’ll save - you won’t have to pay annual salaries and benefits nor spend money on in-office things such as furniture and office supplies. Hiring a company that provides remote medical services would give you much needed relief from the day-to-day stress of managing your practice and staff members.
If you are currently thinking about hiring a medical service company that provides a full suite of healthcare services, DrCatalyst can help. Their team is composed of efficient and well-trained medical staff that will help your practice boost its bottom line, improve payment cycles, and increase patient acquisition. Let’s set up a time for you to chat with us; we’d love to share how our organization can help you prevent or recover from physician burnout.