Is Your Physician Experiencing Burnout?

Posted: Updated:

All professions experience varying degrees of burnout. Physicians and health professionals, who may treat symptoms of burnout in their patients, are not immune to job burnout and depression. In its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases, the World Health Organization has officially classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon.

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a special type of work-related stress - a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Burnout is generally marked by exhaustion, detachment from the job, cynicism, and a depreciating level of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Recent reports have labeled physician burnout in the US as a full-blown catastrophe, indicating that the prevalence of physician burnout has reached “critical levels.” The report, titled A Crisis in Health Care: A Call to Action on Physician Burnout, was produced by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Global Health Institute, Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association. The full report can be found here.

Avoiding possible points of frustration and disappointment before the job starts is a good proactive step. For example, when a doctor discovers that he/she is being paid less than another physician performing the exact same job, he/she can feel deflated, which impacts morale.

Another common scenario is for newly hired doctors to be told verbally that they will be working at the “metro” office for their new employer. However, their contract is worded such that they are legally obligated to work at whichever employer location the employer sees fit. This is often at the sole discretion of the employer. The physician may be completely unaware that their primary work location address should be locked down in writing within their contract. This could prevent them from working at a remote clinic three to four days a week across a couple counties. This unplanned commute could lead to a low level of job satisfaction for the physician, regardless of the high quality of care they are providing to their patients. 

These are merely examples of the types of obstacles physicians face in their career, many of which can be avoided on the frontend. Ensuring that unfavorable job features are weeded out before the start date can lead to higher career satisfaction, and lessen the impact of other burnout symptoms.

The American Medical Association found that nearly 60 percent of physicians blame “too many bureaucratic tasks,” such as charting and paperwork, as the leading cause of burnout. Spending too many hours at work (34 percent) was also a leading cause of burnout with 48 percent of physicians working 51–60 hours each week.

Although reports of burnout at high levels are not necessarily new or surprising, the level of urgency being communicated has reached a peak. Also new is the recommended approach to handling this issue, with many experts advocating for the appointment of “Chief Wellness Officers” at every health care institution. The urgency for action lies in the fact that as physician well-being deteriorates, so does their ability to provide quality patient care.

Alain Chaoui, MD, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society and one of the report’s authors said: “The issue of burnout is something we take incredibly seriously because physician well-being is linked to providing quality care and favorable outcomes for our patients….We need to take better care of our doctors and all caregivers so that they can continue to take the best care of us.”

Job satisfaction is important for emotional and physical health for everyone. A great start to any position will lead to a happier career and will help curb the burnout effect. The best approach to handling the burnout crisis is up for debate, but one thing is clear: burnout is a serious and urgent issue for many professionals, including physicians.

Leigh Ann O'Neill is chief executive officer of Lauth O'Neill Physician Agency.

  • Perspectives

    • Ahh…Yes! Turning a Hot Mess into a Cool Breeze

      "Problems cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them," is attributed to Einstein over 75 years ago. This still holds true, particularly in challenging communications. Many people address conflict at the level it was created by rehashing and building more evidence for their ‘side’ of an argument. Repeating a position tends to intensify the separation of people.



Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • Bob Stutz

      New Role For Salesforce Exec

      After three years on the job, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Chief Executive Officer Bob Stutz is moving into a new role. Stutz, who will remain in Indianapolis, is now executive vice president of strategic partners at Salesforce (NYSE: CRM).  Since arriving in Indianapolis, Stutz has overseen the establishment of the company’s regional headquarters in downtown Indianapolis, which included the Salesforce name being placed atop the state’s tallest building.

    • Red Star announced plans to expand and add 18 jobs.

      Larwill Medical Device Maker to Expand, Add Jobs

      A Whitley County-based medical device maker has announced plans to expand its facility in Larwill which should mean new jobs. Red Star Contract Manufacturing Inc. says it will invest $1.6 million in real estate improvements and additional equipment and will create 18 new jobs by 2022. 

    • Purdue Global Now Offers Analytics Degree

      The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in the field of data analysis are projected to grow 26 percent over the next ten years. Acting upon that data, Indianapolis-based Purdue University Global has launched a new Bachelor of Science degree program in analytics. 

    • Regal Beloit is closing in Valparaiso. (photo courtesy; The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      Valpo Bearings Plant to Close, Eliminating 160+ Jobs

      Wisconsin-based Regal Beloit Corp. and the union representing workers have reached an agreement about the closing of a helicopter bearing factory in Valparaiso. According to our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana, the decision will cost between 160 to 170 workers their jobs. 

    • (image courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      U.S. Steel Updates Layoff Notice to State

      Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) has updated the State of Indiana regarding its previously announced layoffs at the East Chicago Tin Mill. The company says 314, rather than 307, workers will be displaced when the mill is idled this fall.