Many doctors are experiencing burnout with medicine. A survey found that almost half of U.S. physicians have burnout (Shanafelt et al., 2012). This makes physicians the most burned out and the most stressed out group, when compared to other workers. The problem with burnout is that it can lead to the physician leaving the bedside altogether. And if the physician decides to continue working in medicine and does not address their burnout, then it can lead to the development of mental disorders such as anxiety disorders and/or depressive disorders. Here are some tips on how to cope with physician burnout:
Get more autonomy
A major stressor for physicians is that they have less clinical autonomy. When hospital administrators and insurance companies invade your clinical decision making and force you to perform substandard clinical care, then it is time to change your practice environment. If you continue to work for an organization, hospital, and insurance company that forces you to engage in substandard clinical care, you as the physician are still on the hook if an untoward clinical outcome occurs as a result of that substandard care. Start your own private practice, and provide the standard of care you know is right for your patients.
Address clinical errors promptly
Clinical errors are a source of much stress for a physician. You are human, so clinical errors will occur. When they occur, promptly address it and communicate the error to the patient, with a sincere apology. Ignoring it and not communicating with the patient only leads to malpractice lawsuits, which will definitely add to your burnout.
Keep up with medical advances efficiently and in a relaxed way
Instead of drowning in stacks of journals and online CME seminars, go to your annual specialty association meeting, which are usually held at resorts or in big cities. You can get many of your CME credits at these annual conferences, and at the same time, you can enjoy the resort or the big city and have some fun. This can be a mini-vacation.
Focus on less demanding illnesses/procedures
Discontinue the complex and severe cases, and let junior colleagues focus on those.
Decrease your time at work
When you are burned out, you are experiencing mental and physical exhaustion. You need to spend more time taking care of yourself, and you can’t take care of yourself when you are always working. Decrease your hours at work and spend more time recuperating and recharging yourself.
Reduce your spending
Reducing your monthly outlays will reduce the pressure on you to earn more income. By reducing your spending, you have less urgency to work to make money. And when you reduce your spending, you may be able to cut down your work hours.
Take up a hobby
When was the last time you had a hobby? Maybe you gave them up when you started medical training. Instead of working all the time, devoting some time to a hobby can rekindle the passion you used to have.
Exercise helps to give you a feeling of well-being and helps to reduce the effects of stress and burnout.
Join a support group
A support group is helpful in that members are non-judgmental and have similar experiences- their solutions to similar problems may be helpful to you. Additionally, fellowship and a sense of connection to a group are helpful in itself.
Find a cause you believe in, and volunteer time with that cause. It can help to rekindle that passion you had before becoming burnt out.
Focus on activities you would do if you retired today
If you retired today, what would you be doing? Write this down, and start doing the activities on the list.
Go on sabbatical
If you are burned out, consider taking a few months to go on a sabbatical. This is the time to travel and live in places you always wanted to go, write the book that you have not had the time to complete, see ancestors in your homeland overseas, etc.
Ultimately, if despite these tips, you are unsatisfied with the practice of medicine, then you may need to consider an alternative career to find your passion again.