The Burnout Breakdown
It is impossible to talk about healthcare today without considering the paradigm-shift the pandemic has induced. Supply-chain shortages are rampant, low levels of vaccination have populated beds with COVID patients, there are less beds for common healthcare procedures leading to extended wait times for treatment. These, among other symptoms of a dysfunctional system, have caused burnout rate in physicians to skyrocket1.
Even beyond physicians, half of all healthcare workers in America have reported burnout in the past year1. The most common symptoms reported in relation to burnout are exhaustion, depersonalization, feelings of low personal accomplishment, increased incidences of executive dysfunction, and depression2. As a result more and more physicians are quitting, reducing hours, or changing careers3.
Even before the pandemic, physicians commonly documented feelings of missing out on other aspects of life because too much time was consumed by their career. Things like family vacations, children’s activities and hobbies as well as other parenting opportunities were often eschewed. In addition doctors might lose out on opportunities to have hobbies or enjoy time with friends because they don’t have much time and energy remaining after work.
Physicians sacrifice a lot in their practice of care-taking and contributions to societal well-being. With the increased stressors the pandemic has provided there is a crisis in healthcare today. Burnout in physicians is degrading doctor-patient relationships, increasing medical errors and risk of malpractice, as well as impacting patient outcomes and quality of care4.
Studies note that physician burnout which leads to the departure of doctors from their jobs does more than just leave hospitals short-staffed, it also costs them more money. Not only in the way that they lose out from performing reduced numbers of treatments but also in the ways they spend more money recruiting and training hires5.
There are a plethora of articles professing solutions to burnout, and some even present early interventions that have been shown to make a difference6, but unless radical changes occur in the way healthcare is managed and provided in the United States, the crisis will only continue to get worse. The future is reachable, but it’s going to take a lot of thoughtfulness and dedication to get there. What doctors can do to start the change is to curate a custodial lifestyle—the practice of care-taking for everything around you, including yourself, especially yourself.
Written by Jeremiah Ockunzzi, courtesy of Dr. Bart Rademaker, MD.