A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that half of all physicians exhibit at least 1 sign of burnout. Measures of burnout include high levels of emotional exhaustion, high levels of depersonalization and low sense of personal accomplishment. Physicians also have higher levels of burnout than other American workers according to the study. Physicians on the front lines of medicine, such as family medicine, emergency medicine and general internal medicine seem to be especially prone to burnout. Specialists seem to have less symptoms of burn out. What is driving this trend?
The authors of this study think that loss of autonym and loss of meaning in what physicians do are major factors. These factors and others are influenced largely by the current healthcare environment and all the tasks that a physician must perform throughout the day. It all affects the doctor-patient relationship. Patients notice this as well, with many expressing dissatisfaction with their doctor visits. Perhaps it is all the other tasks physicians have to perform before, during and after a patient visit that are affecting this. Charting the visit, following up test results, contacting other providers, calling insurance companies are just some of the tasks a physician must do related to a visit.
The face to face time with the doctor and patient is what suffers. This face to face time helping people is what drew most of us to medicine in the first place. The direction that medicine is heading is sure to increase this non-patient work that needs to be done. All physicians should make a concerted effort to improve the face to face time we have with patients, for theirs and our sakes. Also, keeping a healthy work-life balance is essential to decreasing burnout symptoms. A healthy body, mind and spirit are all fortifications against burnout. We as physicians are privileged to be able to look after the needs of our patients. Patients should as well be thankful there are physicians to take care of them. So, next time you are in to see your doctor, remember that he has a lot to do outside of your visit to give you the best care possible. Thank him or her for being there for you. Help them keep their purpose alive, so we can keep the best and brightest in medicine.
Make an appointment today to see the doctors of Midtown Podiatry, who strive daily to increase relationships with all of our patients.