While careers in health care are rewarding, many doctors are simultaneously dealing with the effects of stress and clinician burnout. A recent study found that between 28 and 30% of physicians experience above-average stress levels—compared to 18% of the general population. Likewise, 42% of doctors are burnt out. Over time, this strain can cause poor health outcomes for both professionals and their patients. The following guide explores these outcomes as well as potential interventions.
How Does Stress Harm Clinicians?
Long-term stress hinders memory, attention, and executive function. This impairment makes it easier for doctors to make errors and harder to act in patients’ best interests. A recent survey at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that of the 6,695 physicians who participated, 54% were stressed to the point of burnout and 10% had committed a significant medical error in the previous three months.
Stress and clinician burnout can cause depersonalization, too. As a result, doctors may feel disconnected from their thoughts, behaviors, and bodily sensations. They may struggle to communicate with not only patients but also colleagues and administrators.
Stress also triggers the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and adrenaline. These chemicals are beneficial in small doses but have serious consequences if they remain at elevated levels. Namely, they can exacerbate—if not cause—mental health problems. For example, chronic stress can cause restlessness and irritability as well as trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.
The mind and body are connected. Hence, stress takes a toll on clinicians’ overall well-being. It can lead to headaches, fatigue, chest pain, and insomnia. It can also influence behavior and cause overeating, drug or alcohol abuse, inactivity, and social withdrawal. In turn, these actions further harm one’s physical health.
What Can Employers Do?
Employers and administrators can combat clinician burnout by creating a facility that better supports healing and wellness. For example, they can offer flexible schedules, reduce the number of required activities, and hold monthly meetings to discuss work-life issues. They can also emphasize the importance of self-care by hosting after-hours fitness classes and encouraging staff members to attend holistic workshops. Together, these interventions help doctors manage stress, care for patients, and lead a higher quality of life.
Headquartered in New York City, Metro Collaborative™ strives to reduce clinician burnout in hospitals and private practices across the country. They regularly host holistic workshops and Caribbean retreats designed to promote healing and wellness among health care professionals. They also offer peer-to-peer dinners that allow professionals from a variety of medical specialties to build strong referral networks. Visit their website or call (609) 876-9163 for more on their upcoming events.