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Identifying the problem is the first step toward preventing and recovering from burnout and exhaustion.
Burnout is common among medical professionals. It’s defined as a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment. Overwhelming caseloads, mountains of paperwork and EHR frustrations are all cited as top contributors by physicians who suffer from burnout, though the problem can begin long before a doctor enters active practice. In fact, data shows that burnout often begins to set in before medical students enter residency.
If untreated, physician burnout can deepen into depression, according to experts. “A lot of people try to hide it,” according to Steven Gates, DO, vice president of graduate medical education at Corpus Christi Medical Center-Bay Area in Texas.
Approxminately 44% of physicians surveyed for Medscape's 2019 National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report identified as burned out, with another 11% reporting "colloquial depression," generally described as feeling "down" or "blue."
Burned out44 %
Coloquially depressed11 %
Clinically Depressed4 %
Nearly half of physicians report feelings of burnout, and those most statistically at-risk include women and individuals age 45-54, according to the 2019 Medscape report based on responses from more than 15,000 physicians practicing in more than 29 specialties.
The report lists urology, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal medicine and emergency medicine as the top five specialties with the highest rates of burnout.
You might be experiencing burnout if you:
Prioritizing self-care and reducing stress are two coping methods recommended by physicians who have found their way back from the brink of burnout. “I noticed that putting myself and my priorities first ultimately made me a better physician to my patients,” shares Vania Manipod, DO, a psychiatrist who blogs about her experience with burnout in an effort to destigmatize depression and help other physicians recognize the symptoms.
Other things that might help: