Nearly Half Of Physicians Suffering From Burnout

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Job burnout, while a problem in many different fields, is especially prevalent among doctors and their colleagues, according to a new study published recently.

The study, led by Dr. Paul Griner a practicing hematologist and internist of nearly 60 years as well as a medical educator, found nearly 46 percent of the 7,288 physicians surveyed in June 2011 reported at least one symptom of burnout. Burnout can have many adverse effects on a doctor’s responsibilities, especially when dealing with other people’s health issues.

Griner characterized doctors suffering from burnout as detached with a diminished empathy and displaying emotional exhaustion and said all these can seriously impede a doctor’s ability to accurately and thoroughly examine patients as they should.

“Doctors need to be in tune with their patients, asking, listening and connecting the dots. They can’t do that effectively if they’re burned out,” Griner said.

Burnout is often a contributing factor to medical errors and a 2000 Institute of Medicine study found errors, including misdiagnosis and incomplete diagnosis account for between 44,000 and 98,000 preventable deaths each year.

The survey found some specialties appear to be more susceptible to doctor burnout including family medicine, general internal medicine and emergency medicine.

Researchers used a 22-item assessment called the Maslach Burnout Inventory as well as a shorter inventory to determine  if the physician was suffering symptoms of burnout.

Griner has 59 years of experienced practicing and is a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine as well as a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

By taking some simple conscious steps in your life, you can help keep burnout at bay.

  • It is important to take care of yourself, which is common advice from doctors to patients that many doctors don’t listen to. Make sure you get adequate sleep, rest, food and exercise so you can best help your patients.
  • However, taking care of your physical needs is not all that is required. Relationships in your life are key and taking time to nurture important relationships help create a critical support system. At work, nurture your relationships with colleagues and coworkers. Good working relationships can help you solve problems and are important to success. It is helpful to have good work relationships especially when you need a sympathetic ear or a sounding board. It also helps to share successes with coworkers as well and focus on the positive aspects of your career.
  • At home, set aside the time both you and your family need to spend with each other. Without it, there will be a major pull between work and home, causing more stress and friction in an already demanding career. Make time for an activity you enjoy and to build those relationships that mean the most to you.
Researchers suggest preventing burnout needs to begin during residency and teachers should begin giving students the tools and tips to help avoid it in the future.

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