Doctors work really hard when it comes to healing others, to the point that they often forget about their own health. We are talking about “Preventing Medical Burnout in Doctors”. The incidents of medical burnout in physicians are increasing at an alarming rate. Whether it’s a student at a stateside medical school, a doctor in a hospital, a professor in an American medical school of the Caribbean or another healthcare professional, burnout is prevalent.
Career fatigues is becoming common among doctors in the United States. A recent study reported that 41% of doctors and other healthcare professionals report a symptom of burnout. They are not among professionals not organized but are among those who have underwent rigorous training as physicians.
What is burnout?
Burnout is characterized by exhaustion of a person in mental, physical and emotional terms due to excessive and prolonged stress. It can occur in any field but in the fields of medicine, nursing, social work, teaching and counselling, burnout is ever present.
In the front line of medicine such as family medicine, emergency medicine and general internal medicine, the incidences of burnout are really high. The danger is in the fact that physicians suffering from burnout are prone to making errors of all margins. Such can result in drop in quality of care, which in turn results in patients not satisfied, getting admitted, injured or nearing death (or worse).
It can lead to depression, alcoholism, suicide and even worse, serious mental illness.
Burnouts in physicians can lead to misdiagnosis because doctors need to be in good shape to help their patients. They need to connect the dots by listening to them, asking them and cooperating with them. If they are burned out, they will not be able to do that.
Symptoms of burnout
Burnout is a process that is gradual and yet increases over time. It does not happen from one day to the other but can creep in anytime.
The physical signs of burnout are as under:
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time.
- Low immunity.
- Often feeling sick.
- Recurring headaches.
- Back pain.
- Negative change in appetite and sleeping patterns.
The emotional signs of burnout are:
- Emotional exhaustion.
- Detachment from patients.
- Detachment from loved ones.
- Sense of self-doubt and failure.
- Feeling trapped, defeated and helpless.
- Feeling more cynical.
- Lack of motivation.
- Decreased sense of accomplishment.
The behavioral signs of burnout are:
- Withdrawal from responsibilities.
- Isolation from others.
- Using drugs and alcohol.
- Frequently venting frustration on others.
- Skipping work.
Causes of burnout
Experts are of the opinion that incidences of physician burnout are often underreported. It has been ignored badly in healthcare and one out of every three physicians is burned out. Long hours, mounting pressure in seeing more patients, high levels of state interference, paperwork, non-patient centered duties are all contributing to physician burnout.
Streamlining office work with a comprehensive practice management system helps reduce stress levels associated with daily hassles of healthcare practice. Physicians do not need to avoid delegating most administrative duties to their staff.
When they are hired, they can come up with new and fresh ideas which physicians can never know. They can help make the practice more productive.
Prevention and Treatment of burnout in Physicians
No physician needs to worry or fuss despite having a bogged down feeling. Here are some techniques to help prevent burnout in physicians.
- They should start their day by relaxing. No need to jump off the bed like a frightened being but rather meditate instead, doing gentle stretches, reading something good (inspiring quotes, a comic, a cartoon and the like). A proven relaxation technique in yoga is known as box breathing. They should try it whenever they feel overwhelmed.
- They should incorporate healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits. Eating right is good as it helps prevent bad cholesterol. Regular exercise will make one feel good and good night’s sleep is relaxing as it helps people face the day at office. Healthy living at office is needed.
- They should set personal boundaries. They should not overextend themselves and they need to say no to certain tasks. Spending time with family is important and leaving work at time is a good practice. Late sitting will never do any wonders.
- Take a break from technology. Keep the phone, cell and laptop aside for some time.
- Nurture the creative side. Start a good hobby and get some time for video games, TV and other leisure activities.
- Rediscover the joy of medicine by reconnecting why they are in medicine. Try remembering when you were happy and appreciated.
- Take some time off. Leaves and vacations are needed. If possible, get an indefinite leave.