Posted: July 21, 2023

Addressing Physician Burnout: Strategies for a Sustainable Healthcare System

Physician burnout is an important issue that continues to impact the lives of healthcare workers. As we know, becoming a physician is moreover a permanent job, which covers a majority of the time within your lifetime. And with all this extra time, comes chronic burnout. A psychologist named Herbert Freudenberger first described the term. As it is perceived as a condition of being in a physically and mentally draining state – which can be triggered by work stress. 


We must be able to address this problem, first, by consulting the main issue for such a common flaw within America’s healthcare system, especially with an even tougher and more competitive job market. Students who have just graduated from medical school, and are now on the job market, find out to have extremely underpaid salaries, especially for a person who studies their whole life for this moment. In order to combat this issue, we can provide multiple helpful strategies that address burnout. The first one is, taking into account the evening out work-life balance. This is done by overall creating a positive space for yourself and those around you. Allowing yourself to take a break is key when it comes to addressing burnout. Another strategy is to help improve the flow within work life. For example, noticing that administrative tasks are inefficient, and gaining the electronic health record system. This is known to help burnout. Not only that but to learn more about your peers and be able to foster collaboration in order to help those in need and if anyone would like to raise a voice. Finally, the last idea that may be able to ease the struggles within the Healthcare system is promoting self-care and wellness not only to yourself but also to others around you. Acknowledging that someone may be able to help you, or even gaining access to help from other places can increasingly improve one’s recovery. The first step for such a large change would definitely be having a clear understanding of how the healthcare system works. And whether there is an easy way on how to care for others.


Usually, when doctors go onto their residency, hours are expected to be long. One of the most common phrases said is to understand that they will be missing weddings, family events, parties, birthdays, and more. According to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, residents were expected to work at least 80 hours per week, this also includes full 24-hour days. As these statistics were from 2011, they have continued to stay on a gradual constant trend. Whereas, residents are still expected to work large amounts of hours per week. In some states, salaries are as low as $60,000 per year. Not only are these fundamentally a path to being burnt out, but also, do not allow for the residents in training to socialize much. 


This also applies to medical students, as they have to be able to put up with the demanding nature of how competitive and hard their education is. Therefore, the factors of having to deal with academic stress can take a large toll on someone emotionally but also their physical being. In other words, medical students are expected to follow up with a very rigorous curriculum in a short amount of time. The ability to procrastinate and not do well does not fit in with these standards. Furthermore, the long hours these students have to put in contribute to the sight of burnout. Attending lectures, going through rotations, and creating an image for themselves, can cause them to easily be mentally drained. Not only that but burnout can be categorized into a group that causes emotional damage when working with patients and seeing them in pain. Emotional depletion can result in a large toll on one’s mental health. This group also pertains to residents as they take on daily cases.


Physician burnout is made even worse by a lack of work-life balance. There is limited time for personal interests and hobbies outside of work due to the hard scheduling and long working hours. Feelings of imbalance and overwhelm might result from the ongoing balancing of work obligations with personal interests and obligations to one’s family. The failure to find time for leisure and self-care causes both physical and mental health to deteriorate. Physicians’ restricted access to services and support networks also contributes significantly to burnout. Because they lack the appropriate channels to communicate and manage their work-related and personal difficulties, many doctors may feel alone and unsupported in their environments. 


Overall, In conclusion, physician burnout is a pervasive issue that demands urgent attention in order to build a sustainable healthcare system. The detrimental effects of burnout not only impact physicians’ well-being but also have far-reaching consequences for patient care, healthcare organizations, and society as a whole. It also goes on throughout generations and acts as if it is an ongoing cycle.

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