Employer Healthcare Strategies


3 Signs of Physician Burnout (And What to Do About It)

Posted by Tatiana Spears on January 31, 2017


According to the Medscape Lifestyle Report 2016: Bias and Burnout, some of the major causes of physician burnout include: 1) too many bureaucratic tasks; 2) spending too many hours at work; 3) too many patient appointments in a day; 4) not enough income; and 5) just feeling like a cog in a wheel.

Physician burnout is a major concern for the industry and can lead to lower patient satisfaction and care quality; higher medical error rates and malpractice risk; higher physician and staff turnover; and physician substance abuse. Repeated studies have shown an average of 1 in 3 doctors suffer from symptomatic physician burnout on any given day. How can you tell if you are at risk for burnout? Here are three signs to look for:


Sign 1: Exhaustion 

You feel emotionally and physically depleted. It feels like you’re running on empty all the time and nothing seems to give you the sustained energy you need.

Tip: Your path towards balance, begins with a single step. Take inventory of your daily routine? Are you making time to invest in yourself? Start with one thing and make a little ritual. This might look like a morning walk an evening stretch session listening to your favorite podcast. Do a little something that makes you happy each day, preferably away from a screen.

Sign 2: Depersonalization 

You find yourself becoming cynical, humorlessly sarcastic, and short with patients and staff.

Tip: Make deposits into your emotional energy account by maintaining healthy relationships with the people you love. Set a date with your spouse. Go to a concert with friends. Connect with a co-worker over coffee. Recharge on socially positive experiences to be emotionally available to your patients, staff, friends, and family. After all, you can’t spend what you don’t have.

Sign 3: Reduced Sense of Accomplishment

Your work feels meaningless and you catch yourself thinking “What’s the point?” and “Who cares?” You might also find yourself worrying about messing up.    

Tip: Connect with your personal sense of purpose. Know that feeling you have when you encounter an ideal patient? You’re reminded of the reason why you became a doctor in the first place. You can experience a similar sense of purpose outside of work by taking part in purposeful engagements, like volunteering or helping a loved one. Without a sense of purpose, your mind will have trouble seeing a reason to keep going. And remember, your self-worth should never be tied to your work. 


Taking proactive steps to prevent burnout is key. But what if you encounter a work environment too toxic to fix on your own? If you’ve exhausted all options to salvage the relationship with your employer, it may be time to explore a new opportunity that will bring greater balance and professional satisfaction.

Uncover the five reasons why providers want to leave the practice (and where they want to go). Download the guide below.


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Tatiana Spears

About The Author

Tatiana Spears

With an MBA mind for analysis and strategy development, Tatiana loves transforming creative ideas into practical application for innovative companies and professionals. She is also the proud owner of an overworked Nespresso machine.