Doctors & Burnout

Doctors in America and Europe are becoming more concerned with burnout.

I have been talking about burnout with physicians in many of these countries. Their concerns about burnout come from their personal experience and their observations of colleagues. They believe that over recent years, the strains on the medical profession have become increasingly intense. More distressing, they are losing hope that the future will improve. And hope for the future is critical to a fulfilling worklife.

Medical groups are interested in surveys to determine levels of burnout among physicians. National surveys have occurred and are planned. They are also interested in identifying the major contributors to burnout, although many believe that they can identify them fairly accurately from their own experience.

The most pressing question is what to do about the problem. People only want to devote so much time gaining a deeper understanding of their problems. Pretty soon they get impatient with the talk and want to take action. That’s the healthy response.

From my perspective, effective intervention to address burnout among physicians has a few core qualities.

  1. Focus on a Positive Goal. Preventing and alleviating burnout can only be part of the plan. The profession needs a thorough discussion and agreement on what constitutes an engaging worklife.
  2. The Energy Equation. The first core quality of burnout is chronic exhaustion. Any effective solution needs to include ways of moderating work demands or sustaining doctors’ resilience through healthy lifestyles. Preferably both.
  3. The Value Equation. The second core quality of burnout is a crisis of values between individual and system values. A burnout intervention must include processes for building more value agreement and clarity between individual physicians and the organizations where they practice their profession.
  4. Collegiality. Working relationships among physicians and with other health care providers are the primary medium for change. Doctors will only improve their worklife through more effective, respectful, and open relationships with their colleagues in health care.

What is your experience?

What do you believe has the greatest effect in addressing burnout?

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