Physicians are people too. They work long hours and meet with many patients throughout the day, each with different personalities. Physicians often feel intense pressure to make the right decisions and analysis for each patient. All of this can take a toll on both the body and mind. This isn’t a new discovery to the medical profession, but it is a rising trend—40% of physicians surveyed in 2013 reported burnout compared to 44% in 2019, according to Medscape (and a peak of 51% according to their 2017 study).

While this is certainly a troubling trend for doctors, it’s also worrisome for patients. What type of care will the patient be receiving? Is the care adequate and done in a friendly fashion? Will the doctor have the time and energy to look at the whole picture—the whole patient—and not just the specific cause for the patient’s visit? These are all potential concerns related to physician burnout.

What can lead to physician burnout?

While burnout can occur in any specialty, this study shows that it is more likely with the following specialties:

  • Trauma surgery
  • Urology
  • Otolaryngology
  • Vascular surgery
  • General surgery

Additionally, the following factors can lead to physician burnout:

  • Working more than 60 hours per week
  • Having calls 2 or more nights per week
  • Being subject to billing-based compensation
  • Having children

Many of these factors are unavoidable in the medical field, so some level of burnout is inevitable.

What are the signs of physician burnout?

Before you can slow the process of physician burnout, you must first identify that there’s a problem. Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Emotional Exhaustion: Doctors become completely worn out and cannot recover during their downtime.
  • Distance with Patients: When doctors start seeing patients more and more, and are on the cusp of burnout, they tend to become distant and not as personal as they once were.
  • Confidence Drop: A doctor can experience low career self-esteem. Diminished faith in their skill set can lead to bigger problems both in and out of the hospital.

How can hospitals slow physician burnout?

Though some amount of physician burnout is likely to happen—no matter the specialty—there are solutions:

  • Let your physicians know you support them 100%.
  • Ask how you can help alleviate some of the causes or the effects. Could they work half-days every other Friday? Hire a physician assistant or nurse practitioner to lessen some of the burden?
  • Offer stress management programs or encourage taking the time for “mindful awareness,” such as yoga or other exercise.
  • Encourage communication amongst your physicians—knowing they’re not alone can really help.

To uphold the level of care your hospital is used to providing, it’s important that your physicians don’t get burned out. These tips can help increase retention of physicians, which saves you time and money and helps you provide quality care. And if you’re looking to hire a physician assistant or nurse practitioner to help with your doctor’s workload, we can help!