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Physician Burnout: Signs and Symptoms

Who does the doctor turn to when they are the ones who need help? Physician burnout is a growing concern with some studies suggesting nearly half of all physicians experience burnout at some point in their career.  

Understanding the risks, recognizing the signs and symptoms of physician burnout, and learning where to find help are all important in addressing the issue. 

What causes physician burnout?

Physicians dedicate their lives to helping others. It can be deeply fulfilling work, but the emotional intensity of caring for patients combined with stressful schedules can create an environment of long-term stress and physical and emotional exhaustion.  

While each physician’s challenges are unique, some of the most reports reasons for physician burnout include: 

  • Working too many hours 
  • Too many administrative and bureaucratic demands 
  • Not being able to spend enough time with patients 
  • A poor work-life balance 

What are the symptoms of physician burnout?

Physician burnout affects both your physical and mental health. Some of the key signs and symptoms of physician burnout include: 

  • A detached and increasingly cynical or negative outlook 
  • A loss of motivation or withdrawal from responsibilities 
  • A low sense of satisfaction, personal accomplishment, or professional effectiveness 
  • Emotional exhaustion leading to irritability or depression 
  • Tiredness that does not resolve with adequate rest 
  • Feeling helpless, defeated or trapped 
  • Headaches, muscle aches, and lowered immunity  
  • Isolating from others 
  • Poor work attendance including coming in late, leaving early, or skipping work altogether. 

How to prevent physician burnout. 

Taking time for self-care is a key component to the recovery from and prevention of physician burnout. Some ways to do this include: 

  • Exercising at least 30 minutes a day 
  • Spending quality of time at home with family 
  • Developing a hobby unrelated to medicine 
  • Joining a peer support group 
  • Schedule adjustments to reduce hours or rearrange the timing of shifts  
  • Become a part of the solution by working with colleagues to influence positive changes to the policies and culture affecting the work environment. 

How to get help for physician burnout. 

The culture of healthcare is changing. In response to the growing concern around the issue of caregiver burnout, many hospitals and healthcare groups have begun to offer internal support and resources for physicians at risk. 

In recent years, a team of volunteer psychiatrists has also developed a free, confidential Physician Support Line to support physicians who need help. Available from 8am to 1am daily to provide support and resources to physicians looking for help.  

Physician burnout is a serious issue facing the healthcare industry. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of physician burnout, take the steps necessary to get help.