April 2013

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April 2013

Is Burnout Affecting You or Your Practice?

 According to a survey published just last month, physicians are suffering from classic symptoms of burnout. In fact, nearly 40% of physicians reported that they were burned out, with the highest percentage of burnout affecting half of those who deal with severely ill patients: emergency medicine and critical care. Dentists also suffer burnout, with over 80% saying they have experienced it.

Loss of enthusiasm for your work, feelings of cynicism and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment are among the classic symptoms of burnout for people in every field of human endeavor. But few people in any field feel as burned out as physicians or dentists these days.

Last year, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that America’s physicians suffer more burnout than any other American workers. In that survey, over 45% of physicians were experiencing at least one symptom. The six specialties reporting the highest burnout rates were emergency medicine, critical care, family physicians, internists, ob/gyns and general surgeons. Pediatricians, rheumatologists, psychiatrists and pathologists were the least burned-out.

A recent survey by reported that a whopping 81% of dentists surveyed reported feeling burnout sometime during their careers.

Burnout cannot be taken lightly. According to another recent study, job stress combined with inadequate treatment for mental illness may account for the higher-than-average suicide rate among American doctors.

What factors most contribute to burnout?

Physicians in the survey cited too many bureaucratic tasks, too many hours at work, feeling like a cog in the wheel, the impact of the Affordable Care Act, insufficient income and lack of work fulfillment as the leading reasons for their stress and burnout.

The Archives of Internal Medicine authors concluded that the prevalence of burnout among America’s physicians is alarming. Those on the front lines of care, including emergency medicine, general internal medicine and family medicine, have the highest risk.

Your quality of life matters, too

Whether you are a physician or dentist, you have dedicated yourself to improving your patients’ quality of life, but what about your quality of life? How does burnout affect you and your ability to enjoy time with your family, exercise, travel, reading and your favorite cultural pursuits?

Having more vacation time had a direct correlation with reduced burnout. Those with four or more weeks of vacation each year reported a 17% burnout rate compared to 40% of those with two weeks or less vacation time. In general, American physicians are no better off, vacation-wise, than their American patients. Averaging only 13 paid vacation days per year, Americans are far worse off than Italian (42 vacation days), French (37 days), German (35 days), British (28 days), Canadian (26 days) and Japanese (25 days) workers.

Dentists who typically work four days per week and take quarterly vacations reported less stress and burnout than their more workaholic counterparts.

Strategies that can help if you’re feeling burned out

There are a number of strategies you can employ to reduce your risks.

Become an activist. Participate actively in healthcare reforms – especially those that give greater control and decision-making to you and your patients.

Reorganize your practice. If your practice is primary-care-oriented, allow more time for your complex patients. Remind your insurers that excessive hassle is bad for patients and physicians. The goal is more satisfied patients and physicians and less burnout.

Spend more relaxing time with your loved ones. Having some fun with your family and friends and enjoying your interpersonal relationships will reduce your risk of burnout.

Exercise more. This advice works for your patients. It will work for you, too. Exercising more than twice per week reduces burnout.

Get help with the business side of your practice. If too many administrative tasks, too much bureaucracy and insufficient income are stressing you out, find qualified business partners who can help reduce your administrative burden and develop sources of additional income and profitability.

Find more fulfilling patients and case-types. There are many strategies available to help you – everything from traditional marketing (branding, collateral and patient education materials) to e-media (web, social media, online reputation management and search engine marketing).  

To see the complete physician lifestyle survey, Click here  .

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