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5 Signs of Physician Burnout

Physician burnout

Physician burnoutMedscape’s 2016 Physician Lifestyle Report found that 54 percent of physicians are experiencing burnout, and the majority work in high-touch specialties like emergency medicine, family medicine and critical care.

The number of doctors experiencing burnout has increased by eight percentage points (up from 46 percent in 2014), and female doctors are more likely to experience burnout this year (55 percent versus 46 percent of male physicians).

Are you one of the many physicians feeling burned out at work? Here are five signs to watch for:

Disinterest in Your Work

Waking up for another day of clinical duties and immediately wanting to crawl back under the covers isn’t a good indicator of engagement at work. While it’s normal to have a few days here and there where you haven’t had enough sleep and can’t fathom seeing patients all day, having these feelings all the time is a sign you may be experiencing burnout. Determine whether your disenchantment is related to the hours you work or a result of the job duties; adjusting your schedule may be a temporary solution.

Poor Work/Life Balance

There will be weeks and sometimes months as a physician that you won’t have enough time to spend with your family and friends, especially in residency or as a new physician establishing a practice. Months and months of 80-hour workweeks will quickly take their toll, however, making you exhausted and unable to properly care for patients and have conversations with them. You’ll also harbor resentment against your practice (and possibly against your staff) if all of your time is sucked into administrative tasks and patient care. Don’t underestimate the value of taking time off and delegating work to others so you can also take care of yourself.

Unhealthy Eating and Physical Habits

Unless you’re committed to a rigorous exercise routine and strict diet, you probably don’t have the best habits — but eating fast food for every meal and crashing on the couch when you get home instead of taking a walk or hitting the treadmill will wear you out quickly and only perpetuate your dissatisfaction. If you’ve had poor habits since residency, you may notice their effect on your mood as much, but if you’ve noticed them sliding downhill over the past year, it may be a sign of other problems at work.

Anger and Irritation at Home and Work

As a physician, you’re bound to get angry sometimes in your career, but everyday irritation or fury is a different story. When you’re mad at yourself for making an honest mistake (like filling out a form wrong or losing a pen in a patient’s room) or mad at the staff for no apparent reason, it’s time to take a step back and cool off. You may simply be releasing pent-up frustration, but you’ll regret snapping at your coworkers and feel even worse if you can’t give yourself any credit. Bringing the resentment of your job home with you is also a bad idea and will only hurt your family.

Inability to See a Positive Future

When you’ve spent years in a career and can’t see a promotion, opportunity for taking on new tasks or pay raise in the cards, it’s easy to become depressed and stop putting as much effort into your work — which is dangerous to both you and your patients. Disillusionment about the future — both at work and in your personal life — is a big sign of burnout and can make it impossible for you be excited about your practice or your career in medicine.

If any of these signs seem familiar, you may be burned out at work. The good news is that a change of pace is sometimes all you need. Read 5 Ways Locum Tenens Practice can Prevent Physician Burnout to find out how you can combat your disinterest and exhaustion — and check out our open locum tenens jobs as well.

About the author

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Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a healthcare writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

1 Comment

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  • Radiolgis’s work load is overwhelming and or leads to malpractice, or a burnt out rad. There must be serous review of the number of cases ,so there is a balance avoid either outcome. Not doing so will diminish interest in new generations to train for this field


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