2018-03-05 20:46:56 UTC

March 6, 2018

Feelings of exhaustion, detachment, cynicism and a loss of motivation could threaten the health care system far more than any regulatory changes.

How are you feeling today? Simple words but a bit of introspection can go a long way. Physician burnout is characterized by a state of mental exhaustion, depersonalization and a decreased sense of accomplishment. It affects a physician’s well-being, effectiveness, productivity and the ability to provide quality care. It also carries personal consequences for physicians including broken relationships, substance abuse, suicide and depression.

Burnout may affect at least one-third of gastroenterologists. At greater risk are younger physicians, physicians performing high-risk procedures and physicians experiencing work-life conflicts.

While the root cause of physician burnout varies from provider to provider, an overarching theme is work stress. Work stress may develop for a number of reasons, including issues at the level of the health care system (shifts in reimbursement or payment models, increasing clerical burden of the electronic medical record), organizational issues (e.g., dysfunctional administration, system-wide communication issues) and personal issues.

The key to preventing burnout is to first recognize that it can happen. Because initial symptoms build up internally, it can be easy to overlook. These seven steps can help you prevent burnout:

  • Be self-aware and stay vigilant.
  • Take care of yourself first.
  • Stay connected to family, friends and co-workers.
  • Exercise.
  • Ensure adequate sleep.
  • Use your vacation time and ensure you disconnect yourself from work.
  • Learn to say no.

A case study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology delves deeper into how burnout develops, why it matters and provides pathways to successfully combat it.