Burnout in physicians can affect the quality of their care and the satisfaction of their patients. Burnout is also a contributing factor in the rise of physician-induced suicide, alcoholism, and depression. It is a slow and gradual process, and can sneak up on physicians if they don’t recognize the warning signs.
According to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation study, more than half of front-line health care workers in the United States experienced some form of burnout, defined as “mental exhaustion from chronic workplace stress.” Those who had the highest level of burnout also reported the worst effects on their mental health. Regardless of age, the vast majority of health care workers reported experiencing some level of mental repercussions from the stressors they face.
Sadly, many doctors are leaving the profession in the middle of their careers, leaving behind patients who must start all over again with a new physician. Others are reducing their hours, which makes it harder for patients to get an appointment. These developments are expected to worsen the physician shortage projected over the next few decades, affecting at least 100,000 physicians by 2030.
Many physicians are complaining about the rigors of the job. They complain about the high patient volume and cumbersome insurance forms. They also are unhappy with their work and perceive rankings as a measure of their own worth. But doctors have the opportunity to fundamentally change the culture of medicine. If they embrace data as a valuable educational tool, they can build a stronger clinical camaraderie, improve patient care, and reduce the risk of burnout.
Resilience training may help doctors manage their emotional well-being. The general medical council introduced resilience training into the curriculum of medical schools in 2014. Although there is limited research on resilience in doctors in the NHS, a pilot study in Northern Ireland found that doctors with high levels of BO had more maladaptive coping mechanisms.