Physician burnout is a serious problem in healthcare that needs addressing. Burnout occurs when physicians become overloaded and experience emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, fatigue, physical exhaustion, cynical detachment and self-deprecation. Physician burnout is also linked to medical and surgical errors, among other things.
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It may be more common than you think
Because the symptoms of physician burnout overlap with the symptoms of depression, the reported cases of physician burnout may be inaccurate and underreported. According to the Patient Safety Network website, the estimates of physicians experiencing burnout range from 20% to 24%. Clinicians who have experienced medical or surgical errors may also have an increased risk for burnout.
Burnout is a problem-driven concept
Burnout can be best understood as a problem-driven occurrence. Physicians and clinicians report that the main drivers of the condition are fundamentally organizational and systems-related. Pressure builds up when physicians must work long hours without respect for work-life balance. Additionally, cumbersome medical records or documentation along with constant pressure to deliver quality healthcare while decreasing costs contributes to burnout.
Many groups are looking to address the problem of burnout among all health care professionals. The National Patient Safety Foundation, along with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, started a National Steering Committee for Patient Safety to focus on areas of safety, including provider burnout. Additionally, The Mayo Clinic has a detailed guide for implementing strategies to reduce burnout. More information about this topic is available on our web page.