Coping with Burnout in the Workplace

Stressed doctor

Chief among "the things they don't teach you in school" is how the behaviors of others and demands of the workplace affect our job satisfaction - and this is true whether you're working at a hospital, bank, corporate office or elsewhere. We're all prone to burnout in our careers, and you might experience it working in health care, too, due to the sometimes stressful situations physicians and medical staffs deal with in the care of others.

According to a 2012 Medscape Physician and Lifestyle Report, 46% of physicians have suffered from burnout. For people in these positions, burnout can be serious, resulting in unprofessional interactions with patients and peers and other negative ramifications, such as job termination and divorce.

But this doesn't mean you are without tools to deal with stress and burnout at work. Recognize the signs and symptoms as they begin to emerge so you can stop its progression at its earliest stages. These are the signs to look for:

A chaotic workflow. Physicians who work in a chaotic environment are much more likely to suffer from burnout due to increasing levels of frustration and stress. A chaotic workflow can be remedied by quality improvement measures that address and simplify each process.

Family sacrifices. Physicians who miss important events such as a child's graduation or the death of a parent often experience mental and emotional burnout as a result. Physicians should carefully explore each employer's policy on time off and commit to putting these important family events first when the time comes.

Personal sacrifices. Taking care of themselves should be just as important as taking care of their patients. Physicians should take special measures to maintain the things that were important to them before they became licensed, whether that means staying in shape, reading or connecting with their spirituality.

Poor leadership. Physicians who feel their leader does not support or understand their values and practice are at an increased risk of burnout. Sometimes the remedy is simply a heart-to-heart talk to reconnect on shared professional goals.

Ignoring stress. Working in the medical field brings significant stress; doctors who don't acknowledge and work through the stress they experience after losing a patient, struggling with a difficult patient, or missing a big family event due to work eventually may find that the stress becomes unmanageable. Physicians should debrief after a traumatic event and specifically identify stressors in order to better deal with them in the future.

Providers who save the life of just one patient touch the lives of many. Taking care to recognize the early signs of burnout is vital to both a successful medical career and to the community you serve.

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