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Physician burnout survey highlights burnout rate

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Your job as a primary care physician is stressful. You are charged with providing high quality, value-based healthcare to your patients and with running a successful business in your practice. Regulations, paperwork, and patient and staff needs can pile up, causing more stress and, eventually, burnout. While the rate of burnout continues to be high, there are a number of physicians fighting burnout in unique ways.

A whopping 92% of physicians participating in the Medical Economics 2019 Physician Burnout Survey said they felt burned out from practicing medicine at some point in their career. The survey also found that:

  • 68% indicated they felt burned out “right now,” while they were completing the survey
  • 37% said their burnout was a result of “too much paperwork and government/payer regulations”
  • 80% had not sought and were not planning to seek professional help to cope with their burnout
  • 74% said their feelings of burnout had, at some point in their career, made them want to quit medicine.

There are physicians fighting burnout, some in very creative ways. Gabe Charbonneau, MD, a family physician in Stevensville, Montana, has developed a “Fight Burnout” logo and slogan which he has printed on t-shirts. He then sends those t-shirts to other physicians and people who are doing something meaningful to fight burnout, along with a note of thanks.

Dr. Charbonneau’s shirt features a phoenix rising above the ashes with the Rod of Asclepius and “We rise above” written in Latin, “Nos ortum superare.” He knows first-hand the effects of burnout, as his wife had to leave their family practice because of her own burnout symptoms. Dr. Charbonneau is focused on spreading the word that “burnout doesn’t have to be the accepted norm.”

Other physicians fighting burnout include Daisy Smith, MD, FACP, American College Of Physicians (ACP) vice president for clinical education, Philadelphia. Dr. Smith is leading ACP’s efforts to build awareness about burnout among physicians, including educating them as to how they can identify the warning signs. She says, “We need to fix the water clinicians are swimming in,” adding that “The overall causes of burnout are a workload where people keep adding more and more things to front-line clinicians, but nothing gets taken away.”

Marie Brown, MD, Internist and AMA practice transformation officer, Oak Park, IL, is focused on developing ways to streamline her daily activities to reduce her stress. When using electronic health records (EHRs), she suggests reviewing the types of notifications selected. For example, she says that she has turned off notifications about discharge summaries and tests that did not include results, as those are not useful to her in her daily work. Dr. Brown also suggests that physicians should be properly trained on using their EHRs more efficiently.

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In an effort to fight burnout and its potentially devastating effects, many physicians and organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), are studying and addressing the issues fueling physician burnout. As Dr. Charbonneau emphasizes, everyone can “make a difference” in the fight to combat physician burnout.