Burned Out of Burnout

Physician burnout is the buzz phrase heard daily on social media, physician blogs, and it’s even in medical journals and CME line ups. This recent article references a study on the topic. The phrase is actually code for the stress, anxiety, and depression that inflict physicians and physician students at all career stages. Those are serious problems that need to be addressed but do we really need confirmation with research to tell us our work is stressful? Physicians are not just recognizing that our education, training, and careers are stressful. No one ever sells medical school as an easy path. Are there people who go in thinking it will be? If so, I never met any of them and don’t want to.

So, why is it suddenly a great idea to have required lectures and mounds of research telling us we’re burned out? Also, who’s great epiphany was it to have us take time away from the things we really enjoy to sit in a lecture, meeting, or in front of a computer to listen to ways we should relax? School and employer-required lessons on the subject are not only insulting and aggravating, but they also add more things to the ever-growing list of demands in our day.

I absolutely love my career. I take pride in the work and effort that earned the degree and skill I have. I love my interactions with my patients and colleagues and cannot imagine myself doing anything different in life. But, I also love my family, faith, friends, hobbies. I know my fuel is sleep, exercise, prayer and meditation, worship, and play time with my husband and children. What I don’t need is more of the people who inflict the stress telling me to stop being burned out.

Many of the causes of physician stress are not even in our control but inflicted upon us by the very people telling us not to stress. This piece in smartbrief.com starts off on the right track describing the root causes, but then totally flops with the resolutions. The real solutions actually involve removing everything except, patient makes appointment, physician examines and listens to patient, patient and physician agree on goals and plan, and patient pays physician. All of the extra stuff is not why we went to medical school. Seriously y’all, quit giving us more stuff to stress over, then we’ll stress less and we’ll have more time to do the soul-refreshing fun life stuff.

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Nicole Johnson MD

Nicole M. Johnson MD is a practicing physician in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and is certified in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Johnson is the President and Co-founder of PHYSICIANS FOR PATIENTS®, a grassroots organization that champions physician-led care and fights against the unsupervised practice of medicine by non-physicians. She is passionate about lowering the cost of medical care for all Americans, solving the physician shortage, and ending mandatory Maintenance of Certification®. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Also visit www.physiciansforpatients.org. 

  5 comments for “Burned Out of Burnout

  1. RSW
    May 3, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Stress and burnout are not the same thing.

    Being a physician is an inherently stressful job – always has been, always will be. Anyone who makes it through med school, residency and a few years in practice is GREAT at handling this stress.

    Having the responsibility of making life and death decisions on an hourly basis, and being hindered and stymied from carrying out those decisions with every action you take – that’s burnout.

  2. mamadoc
    May 2, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    It’s pretty funny to me that the AAFP wants to help me with burnout. Hell, their antics are a lot of the reasons I HAVE burnout.

  3. Janis Chester
    May 2, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Loss of autonomy is the problem. Being a slave to an employer, computer, insurance company, regulatory agencies and government (any and all third parties) is toxic.

  4. Mary Lang Carney ,MD
    May 2, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly

  5. Jennifer Hollywood
    May 2, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    I totally agree with everything! It seems that “they” are saying that the cure for us getting stressed from having to do too much stupid stuff at work is… to do MORE stupid stuff. And the AAFP and everyone else are supporting this farce of reporting requirements and preauths (even on generics) etc. Plus now the AAFP and all the rest of the leaches are making extra money off of courses on teaching us how to relax and be less stressed. I KNOW how to relax and be less stressed. The real problem is the other person (industry/government) putting unreasonable and irrelevant demands on my time.

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