Building Resilience Against Physician Burnout

3 min read
3 minute read
May 13, 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a rising concern in the medical community: physician burnout. According to the American Medical Association, as a result of added stress and labor during the pandemic, as much as 62.8% of physicians experienced symptoms of burnout in 2021, a 38% increase from the previous year. However, burnout has yet to decrease to pre-pandemic rates. A 2024 report shows that 49% of physicians still experience burnout. 

Burnout often leads to detrimental effects on physicians’ well-being, quality of life, and work performance. To facilitate mental and physical wellness, longevity in the medical field, and quality patient care, it’s vital to develop resilience against physician burnout. 

Causes of Burnout 

Burnout is often the result of compounding personal and professional issues. Long working hours, high patient loads, poor collaboration, and lack of work-life balance or personal support systems are all contributing factors. Combined with a high-stress working environment, physicians often take on emotional burdens from their patients. Additional day-to-day strains include time spent updating patient forms, sleep deprivation, and struggles with administration. 

Workplace culture may also contribute to physician burnout. Poor working conditions can heavily affect job satisfaction and physician well-being. Time pressure plays a significant role in harmful working environments. Expediting processes like the integration of electronic medical records have been correlated to greater stress for employees in the long- and short-term. 

Faced with a myriad of daily challenges, a high-stress environment, and a variety of physical and mental strains, it’s unsurprising that physicians remain at such high risk of burnout. When physicians experience severe burnout, practitioners, patients, and the health care system suffer. 

Personal and Professional Effects of Burnout 

On a personal level, job burnout may damage both mental and physical well-being. Burnout has been found to significantly affect healthcare workers’ quality of life. It may even lead to higher levels of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. 

Additionally, evidence shows that burnout may be a determining factor in turnover in the medical community. The MEMO study (Minimizing Error, Maximizing Outcome) was a landmark study into physician burnout. Data from this study connects burnout to physician error and turnover. Of the target sample, over 25% indicated clinically meaningful mental health concerns, and 31% indicated a moderately high likelihood of leaving their practice within 2 years. 

Physician burnout also impacts the quality of patient care. Evidence shows that burnout affects medical practices and patient satisfaction. One study focused on the emotional wellness of 57 general practitioners. Results showed that practitioners who had negative feelings were more likely to have a high prescription rate for patient ailments. Additionally, those with negative feelings were less likely to offer in-depth explanations to their patients. Unsurprisingly, high levels of stress and burnout in healthcare workers are associated with patient dissatisfaction. 

The Cost of Burnout 

Quantifying patient mortality or misdiagnosis with burnout proves difficult. However, as research continues, a correlation between physician burnout and medical error is becoming clearer. The monetary cost of physician burnout is also coming to light. Direct costs from burnout include recruitment and onboarding costs to fill positions left by burnt-out physicians. Indirect costs stem from medical error and poor patient practices, which raise malpractice risk and damage a practice’s reputation. According to some estimations, physician burnout may contribute to up to 10.6% of serious medical mistakes and cause direct and indirect healthcare costs equating to $4.6 billion per year. 

Fighting Burnout and Promoting Wellness 

Long-term management for physician burnout often relies on changes at an administrative level. In the MEMO Study, satisfaction was associated with control of work hours and a less chaotic work environment. However, individual techniques may provide resilience against burnout. 

Traditional stress management is valuable for reducing burnout. To reduce workplace stress, consider participating in a stress management program, which can help develop long-term stress management techniques. Alternatively, seek out similar programs for guidance on developing resilience. In one study, a sample of 82 physicians was used to determine the efficacy of professional coaching for managing burnout. Those who underwent only 3.5 cumulative hours of professional coaching reported less emotional exhaustion and overall burnout. They also experienced increased quality of life and resilience. 

Generating greater levels of social support may also help reduce physician burnout. Developing social connections, participating in team-building exercises, and optimizing shared workspaces may decrease isolation and stress in the work environment and increase well-being. Similarly, social team-building activities may assist in encouraging collaboration and reducing individual burdens. For both individuals and organizations, these tactics may help reduce physician burnout. 

Ultimately, many long-term solutions to burnout rely on reducing physician workload. Physicians are often burdened with auxiliary tasks, including tracking testing schedules and collaborating with multiple specialized testing centers. Testing should provide reliable results under quick turnaround times to expedite diagnostics and limit the margin of error. Additional support from expert advisors and ongoing education programs may also limit physician burnout while promoting patient health and wellness. 

Trustworthy Testing from Access Medical Labs 

Although patient testing and follow-up can be an added burden for busy physicians, switching to a fully streamlined lab can truly lessen this load. At Access Medical Labs, we offer a diverse testing menu from blood, saliva, and urine and a host of solutions to help streamline the lab experience and provide peace of mind to practitioners. Tests such as our advanced hormone, heart health, and wellness health screening panels provide time-saving assistance in prognosis and disease management. Explore more from Access Medical Labs today.

Building Resilience Against Physician Burnout - Access Medical Labs
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