Acknowledging stress, accepting help and addressing fatigue are useful strategies for clinicians facing burnout, according to recommendations published in Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America.
“Burnout is physical or mental collapse that is caused by overwork or stress and all physicians are at risk,” Roger P. Smith, MD, assistant dean for graduate medical education and professor in the department of integrated medical science at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, said in a press release. “Professional burnout is not new, but what is new is the wider recognition of the alarming rates of burnout. Physicians in general have burnout rates that are twice the rate of working adults.”
Prior research has shown that more than half of U.S. physicians experience symptoms of burnout, and that the rate is not decreasing. According to Smith, 40% to 75% of OB-GYNs experience burnout. Other specialties with rates of 40% or more include anesthesia, dermatology, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, radiology and surgery. In addition, younger residents are at highest risk for burnout, with rates close to 75%. Because of the high percentage of doctors who experience burnout, it is important to find strategies that will allow physicians to reverse the threat of burnout, restoring their enthusiasm to practice medicine and help patients, Smith wrote.
Early awareness and intervention of the symptoms of burnout is vital, and using simple techniques to reduce fatigue and stress can lessen the risk, according to Smith. He recommends that to fight physician fatigue, one of the main characteristics of burnout, the solution is simply to sleep. Compared with other professions, physicians usually sleep fewer hours and that sleep is not often restful or restorative. Reducing the number of hours worked is not enough; a deeper, longer sleep can result in relaxation and renewal. To reduce stress, the other greatest risk factor for burnout, Smith advises that physicians should alter it using direct communication, problem solving and time management; avoid it with delegation, knowing personal limits or just walking away; and then accept by building resistance and changing perceptions. Physicians can also reduce stress by taking short breaks when needed to rest, singing, laughing or exercising. Hobbies, vacations and skilled counseling are all successful interventions that can lead to the elimination of physician burnout.
“Whatever the route taken, no physician should feel immune, no physician should feel ashamed or alone, and no physician should feel that reversal is not possible to escape the personal and professional collapse that is burnout,” Smith said. – by Savannah Demko
: Smith reports no relevant financial disclosures.