How to survive Doctor Burnout

In a survey conducted by Dr. Shanafelt a physician burnout researcher at Mayo Clinic, it was found that increasing number of doctors are experiencing burnout on a varying scale- one being that it does not interfere, and seven indicating thoughts of leaving medicine.

Regulatory, systemic and practice environment issues appear to be key at prima facie level. However, as doctors have less control over some of these, it feels more helpless.

It is a general perception of the public that doctors have a recipe for great personal and professional satisfaction. However, a recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that doctors displayed almost double the rate of emotional exhaustion as the general working population. Moreover, doctors also reported lower (36.0 percent)satisfaction with work-life balance compared to 61.3 percent of the general working population.

The important finding was – What makes doctors great also drives the burnout.


The 3 main reasons for burnout were:

  • Emotional exhaustion: Losing enthusiasm for work due to systemic forces.
  • Low personal accomplishment: Feeling ineffectiveness in work due to the continuous setting of high self-standards, whether or not that is an accurate perception.
  • Isolation: Loneliness due to lack of collegiality.

The remedies for burnout are simple, yet not easy.

Dr. Shanafelt suggests, identifying values—both personally and professionally—is an important factor in addressing what causes burnout. He suggeststo engage in a series of questions to examine the two sides.

The first set of questions a doctor can ask himself:

  • What are the things you care about in your personal life?
  • What does it look like for you to live in a way that demonstrates those are the things you care about?

The second set of questions about the profession are:

  • What are the things you care about in your professional life?
  • How are you devoting and spending your time to align with those things?

Finding answers to these questions may require a lot of introspection and reflection.

Finding ways to connect with colleagues, expanding social/professional networks are some ways doctors can reduce their burnout.

It is understood that due to an extensive training regime, doctors start their careers quite late- about the age of 40 and therefore act with the principle that ‘work now, when I retire I’ll get to personal life’. However, making time for yourself now and enjoying life in whatever way suits you is the key to avoid burnout.


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