Ending Physician Burnout

Natasia Langfelder |



Burnout is a particularly insidious aspect of modern life. It leads to unhappiness in an individual, and both that individual, their family and their workplace will suffer as a result. Physicians have a uniquely stressful job. A survey by personal finance site NerdWallet found that many doctors are disappointed with their career path, and less than half would pursue medicine if they had the chance to do it all over again. Physicians are also not likely to recommend their occupation to their children and are at higher risk of suicide than the general population. With numbers like this, it’s no surprise that many physicians are thinking of leaving the industry, and that there is a shortage of skilled doctors.

Their occupation is high-stakes, with lives literally on the table, and diagnosing illnesses is only an exact science in theory, not in practice. Add in bureaucratic red tape, long shifts (which often involve sacrificing an aspect of their personal life), a confusing insurance and reimbursement system and America’s litigious culture; and you have a sure-fire recipe for burnout. In fact, 54% of physicians report that they are suffering from burn out. So what can be done to prevent this?

Know the Signs

Any good employer can and will recognize the signs of burnout in their employees.

  1. Loss of productivity: If a physician starts to lag behind on paperwork or your rockstar surgeon starts to flag, this is a major sign that something is wrong.
  2. Cynicism: Do you have a physician who used to be all smiles, and now has nothing but sarcastic remarks to offer? This can be a sign of burnout.
  3. Severe Exhaustion: This is both a sign of burnout and potentially dangerous for both the doctor and patients.
  4. Short Temper: Have a physician who’s snapping at everyone? This could be a sign of burnout.
  5. Excessive Absenteeism: If a doctor is calling out more than usual, or not showing up for work at all, there could be something deeper happening underneath the surface.

Reduce Stressors   

  1. Reduce the amount of paperwork: Christina Lamontagne, vice president of health at NerdWallet said that "Administrative tasks account for nearly one-quarter of a doctor's day...with additional liability concerns and more layers in health care, we can understand the drain this takes." (source)
  2. Increase patient/doctor facetime: Many patients want more time with their doctors; the secret of the healthcare industry is that doctors want more time with their patients as well. Ensure that your physicians have the time they need with their patients and don’t feel rushed simply to meet reimbursement quotas.
  3. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback: Ensure you have a mechanism in place to let doctors offer feedback on workplace practices. Allowing physicians to be heard and to feel empowered is important.
  4. Show your appreciation in non-monetary rewards: Physicians have high salaries, however, recognition at work goes beyond the monetary. Ensure that your physicians know they are an integral part of the workplace.
  5. Build community: It’s not unheard of in hospitals or health systems for doctors and surgeons to separate themselves from the rest of the community. Pay attention to your company culture and make sure to try to squash any striations.
  6. Provide mental health services: The higher level of suicide in physicians is something that healthcare organizations need to take seriously. Make sure that your physician community knows they have resources available if they need to talk.
  7. Give back to the local community: giving physicians a chance to get to know the community they serve will help create bonds between doctors and patients. A chance to see the good work they do in the community, and feeling connected to their patients will help give doctors a higher level of job satisfaction.

What does your health system do to minimize physician burnout? Comment below or Tweet us @Connex.