The Importance of Alleviating Physician Burnout

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Do you work in healthcare? Then you’ll know all about burnout. Just one shift can cause you to feel burnout. Those dreaded shifts – patient call buzzers, emergency alarm bells, and monitoring noises follow you home. Then even follow you to your sleep – that’s when you know you’ve had a bad one.

And that’s the issue, so many physicians take work home with them subconsciously. According to one study, half of physicians experience feelings of being burnt out in 2023. That number will continue to rise as pressures grow. Some would say that the pressures on global healthcare systems are out of control. At the heart of it are the medical staff experiencing burnouts.

But what do they do? Go to sleep for a few hours after eating their first meal of the day and do it all again.

Below, we’ll explore what burnout is and what can be done to alleviate it.

Understanding Physician Burnout

Understanding physician burnout is possibly impossible unless you’re a physician working in healthcare. The stress is immense. The pressure, the time constraints, the impact on personal life – the list could go on.

Physician burnout is emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment. It’s everything. But it’s not so easy to quit. So what happens? Physicians keep working when they feel on fire.

And, it can feel like there’s nothing to do about it. The relentless demands of patient care, administrative duties, and keeping up with changes are too demanding for some people.

Burnout poses a significant threat to the efficacy of healthcare delivery. it could compromise the ability of physicians to engage compassionately and effectively with their patients. Recognizing and addressing the root causes of physician burnout is thus a critical step in safeguarding patient well-being.

The Impact on Healthcare Quality

The impact on patient care and care quality is massive. Burnt-out physicians are stressed, distracted, exhausted, and probably even dehydrated. If you work in healthcare, you’ll know how common it is not to sip a drink all day. The damage on focus because of dehydration alone is huge – would you want somebody so unfocused caring for you?

And there’s a disturbing trend where burnout contributes to an increase in medical errors – in the US, between 44,000 and 98,000 medicals happen yearly.

This deterioration in care quality undermines the trust between patients and providers. It escalates healthcare costs through additional medical errors and subsequent interventions. And trust us, people will try and take as much money as they can.

Solutions

There has to be a solution. The impact on patient care, outcomes, and the health system is massive. Here are some solutions that could work:

Outsourcing Tasks

Outsourcing tasks is a great way to prevent burnout – it works particularly well in private settings where you can outsource. Doctors working in the public health sector usually don’t have the luxury. Medical scribing is one example – they can type up consultations in real time. Outsourcing basic admin tasks can also help.

Promoting Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is essential – but do any of us really feel like we have that? Especially physicians. Those 12-hour+ shifts don’t go hand in hand with work-life balance. And, according to Statistica, 52% of doctors aren’t happy with their work schedule. A big chunk of that reason will be because work is their only schedule.

Something more needs to happen to change physician working hours – the toll on focus and patient care is massive. It’s not just about preventing burnout. Providing long-term solutions and addressing the challenges of each physician must also be heard end to end. For example, extending vacation breaks or having staffing solutions to locum tenens for surgeons.

To get more of a work-life balance, administrative assistance, peer support networks, and mental health resources are great. These resources provide practical advice and emotional support. And trust us – doctors need emotional support. One study found that 77% of burnouts are because of mental health.

Implementing Organizational Changes

It really should be healthcare institutions that solve physician burnout. Realistically – they’ll be the ones dealing with the complaints. From the daily phone calls about patient beds or short staffing to patient complaints, the hierarchy of the healthcare system hears all about it.

By enacting policies that prioritize physician wellness, like streamlining administrative processes or hiring more staff, organizations can cultivate a healthier, more supportive work environment. These changes address the immediate stressors contributing to burnout and create a culture of continuous improvement and professional fulfillment. They might even make a culture people want to work in.

But it obviously won’t be easy, and are they even trying?

They must recognize the value of their medical staff and actively work to enhance their working conditions. That’s something they’re definitely not doing. Still, this proactive stance on organizational well-being (if they do it) would solve a lot of issues.

Do you think there’s something to be done about physician burnout? News reports online will tell you about the struggles of global health systems – and the US isn’t immune to it. If anything, the US is one of the worst affected. The US, along with the UK – are stretched beyond belief. The results are employee burnout and staff working too many hours. To solve burnout, an endless list of other issues comes first.