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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Physician Burnout: Be Kind to Your Health Care Provider

This is an article from Podiatry Management Magazine online service. Thank you. 

U.S. Physicians Suffer More Burnout Than Other Workers
Physicians in the United States suffer from more burnout than other workers in the United States, new research shows. A national survey of more than 7,000 U.S. physicians reveals that close to one half report having at least one symptom of burnout. "The fact that almost 1 in 2 U.S. physicians has symptoms of burnout implies that the origins of this problem are rooted in the environment and care delivery system rather than in the personal characteristics of a few susceptible individuals.

"Policy makers and health care organizations must address the problem of physician burnout for the sake of physicians and their patients," the authors, led by Tait D. Shanafelt, MD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, write. The survey findings were published online August 20 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Source: Pam Harrison, Medscape News [8/22/12]

Dr Blake's comment:

I have definitely felt the burnout of most physicians as you try day after day to squeeze in one more patient, and then another. The work demands are excessive and the paperwork overwhelming. Add if you are trying to do a decent job in helping people, more time restraints. 

How do physicians fight burnout? Most limit their practices to the highest paying aspects: surgery, testing, work compensation cases, legal cases, various procedures. But, what then happens to the common sense care, the KISS care, the hand holding and sage advice time? 

I hope this next generation of physicians, and all health care providers, will figure it out. I find I need to eat well, limit my week night outings, stay organized, not multi-task, exercise regularly, and re-invent who I am as a doctor every 3 years or so. And, not take myself or the bureaucratic chaos I am in daily too seriously. 

This blog has been one way to re-invent myself. Before the blog, I was busy raising my family. Before that, there was all the excitement of starting a practice. 
Even though there is a lot of work organizing a blog, it is not the amount of work that tends to cause burnout in any job, it is the feeling of hopelessness over getting the work done, or the feeling of lack of respect, or the feelings of failure when things do not go well (normal part of the art of medicine). This blog gives me none of that and so has become a very healthy part of my practice. It adds health to my practice, making me feel that I am making a difference. 


  1. Thanks for your post Dr. Blake. This is such a huge problem that no one talks about. Here's my understanding of the reach and implications of burnout these days from my work with hundreds of over stressed doctors.

    These doctors are the canary in the coal mine of medicine and we simply cannot allow them to drop at this rate.

    The literature on burnout over the last 20 years is completely consistent with this study. 1 in 3 doctors on average are suffering from symptomatic burnout on any given office day. These statistics are worldwide, regardless of the docotor's specialty OR the type of healthcare delivery system.

    The biggest cause is the conditioning of our healthcare educational system which effectively installs a survival mechanism in all doctors that has four key components.
    Emotion Free
    Lone Ranger

    This is a key set of skills we all must use to survive training and NOT a great way to live a life.

    It is this programming that is primarily responsible for the epidemic of burnout we see in medicine. The additional post-graduation stresses of "the business of medicine", our complete lack of functional leadership skills and the uncertainties of political "reform" and the changing practice landscape - 75% of doctors are projected to be employees by 2013 - not to mention raising a family with this #800 gorilla of a career. It is a recipe for this dysfunction.

    Where do we go from here? It is a multifactorial answer. The doctors need the skills to lower stress and prevent burnout as individuals. That is why I created my website. We know what works to create a more resilient doctor and prevent burnout and it is rarely taught in the standard medical school and residency curriculum. And organizations bear a large responsibility because it is so darn easy to focus on the patient .... and not see that - in healthcare especially - the health and wellbeing of the provider has a direct impact on the quality and healing at the level of the patient.

    We have a moral, ethical and business imperative to support the wellness of the providers and not treat doctors like piece workers on a production line.

    These are immensely important topics that deserve more than a blog comment to do them justice. If you REALLY want to explore this issue in a way that has a chance to create meaningful change. Please contact me through my website.

    The doctors are the canary in the coal mine of modern healthcare ... unfortunately that same canary is the one coordinating the care of everyone in your system... and we cannot afford to let them drop.

    My two cents,

    Dike Drummond MD
    TheHappyMD (dot) com

    1. Dike, thank you. I personally will give your website a look. I see great docs giving poor care which I know has to be from burnout. I see the docs in my clinic in survival mode daily, but losing the love of medicine. Rich

  2. The fact that almost 1 in 2 U.S. physicians has symptoms of burnout implies that the origins of this problem are rooted in the environment and care delivery system rather than in the personal characteristics of a few susceptible individuals.

  3. Physician burnout is a real thing and appears to be widespread among podiatrists. I happen to come across a research study which says that nearly 80% suffer some type of impact from burnout that poses a threat not just for the physicians but also for the patients. Sounds alarming! Why are podiatrists exposed to higher degrees of burnout? Well, being an integral part of the wound care team podiatrists are swamped with patients. And all this means excessive workload and overwhelming paperwork.

    As regards podiatry specialty, the mounting paperwork and administrative tasks, reimbursement changes, over-demanding patients, and time pressures are some of the major burnout triggers. If you are wondering what burnout symptoms could feel like, it can vary from person to person and may include fatigue, anxiety, lack of energy, sleep problems, to name a few.

    If you feel that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to talk to someone you can trust and share your feelings with them. Also, consider reducing your patient hours, take the help of a virtual medical scribe to assist with documentation, try to live in the moment and remain positive when possible. All these are some of the simple ways to beat burnout.

    As far as I have seen, physicians don’t openly admit that they have some difficulty. There is a lot of stigma around burnout. Break the stigma. If you still feel you are struggling with symptoms of burnout do not hesitate to seek professional help.


Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.