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How Clinician Burnout Turned into an Epidemic August 6, 2019

Midtown East, Manhattan
How Clinician Burnout Turned into an Epidemic, Manhattan, New York

Clinician burnout is more than feeling tired or overworked — it’s an all-around malaise not unlike depression. A 2016 NEJM Catalyst Insights Report survey described burnout as “a syndrome of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and a sense of low personal accomplishment.” Sitting at the intersection of long hours, workplace stress, and organizational complication, clinicians are especially at risk. A few statistics from industry experts give an impression of the extent of burnout in the healthcare industry:

  • Up to 60% of physicians have reported experiencing symptoms of burnout
  • One in sixteen American surgeons have dealt with suicidal ideation in the past 12 months
  • Only 26% of those sought professional help — 60% admitting they didn’t for fear of losing their medical license
  • 96% of the NEJM Catalyst Insights Council believes clinician burnout is an issue of moderate or high severity

What Causes Burnout?

Clinician BurnoutData suggest the principal cause isn’t long hours. Institutional factors appear more relevant: bureaucracy, time away from patients, strife among coworkers, and organizational changes, to name a few. In a 570-respondent survey from the Massachusetts Medical Society, 59% of clinicians cited “increased clerical burden” as a top cause of burnout. This might stem from recent industry-wide pressure to switch to electronic health records, which disrupts long-established workflow. The next-most cited cause, “increased productivity requirements/expectations,” came in at 51%.

Clinicians May Lack Proper Resources

A 2008 study reviewed 129 medical articles focusing on clinical personnel themselves and found only nine true studies of preventative intervention. It concluded that, of these, none provided an acceptable level of evidence to support intervention’s effectiveness. Confrontation of the issue appears insufficient: many respondents to the aforementioned NEJM Catalyst survey report their organizations “talking about the problem in committees but [creating] no action plan yet.” This systemic lack of engagement and clinician resources may contribute to the burnout epidemic.

Recognizing Burnout

Burnout can lead to absenteeism, high turnover, and dissatisfaction. More startlingly, one study showed 50% of sufferers of burnout met depression criteria, and 9% for “at-risk alcohol abuse.” Burned-out clinicians more frequently self-report medical errors. Considering the wide-reaching effects of clinician burnout on quality of care and the effectiveness of the rest of one’s team, awareness of your fellow clinician’s emotional state is essential.

Metro Collaborative is the forum for collaboration, networking, and problem-solving in the integrative medicine industry. Confront issues and form valuable relationships with non-competing peers to bring your practice to the industry’s cutting edge. Get your seat at the table by calling Metro Collaborative at (609) 876-9163 or visiting their website.

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