4 Things Physicians Wish People Knew About Physician Burnout

How many primary care physicians have you had in the last few years? If you answered, “the same one since you got them,” consider yourself lucky. With the continued presence of COVID-19, we’ve seen physicians and other healthcare professionals leave their roles left and right due to burnout, causing a spike in turnover rates. What all is contributing to this and what do us patients need to know about it? 

Dr. Gail Gazelle MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Master Certified Coach for physicians lists 4 things that physicians and healthcare professionals wish patients and the general public knew about physician burnout.

“Very tragically, multiple studies reveal that over 50% of physicians experience burnout. Burnout involves a sense of exhaustion, cynicism about work, and a loss of connection to our sense of meaning and accomplishment. It is deeply painful, sometimes called erosion of the soul–it robs physicians of the joy and purpose that helping others can provide,” says Dr. Gazelle.

Wish #1: Physicians are struggling
With more than 50% of physicians experiencing burnout, it’s likely that your physician is struggling as well. So, if your doctor seems frazzled or fatigued, be kind. Your kindness and empathy can go a long way in helping them get through their day. Doctors are people too, and we’re all going through a lot right now.

Wish #2: We hate typing into a computer during your visit just as much as you do
One of the things physicians are most frustrated by is the electronic medical record system. It’s estimated that physicians have to spend at least as much time typing as they do face-to-face with their patients. In fact, most leave the office and then have hours of catch-up to do before they go to sleep for the night. 

Wish #3: “Thank you” goes a long way
Every time you thank them for the care they provide, you’re helping them avoid burnout. It’s so easy to think that doctors have it all–great jobs, good pay, happy family lives. But medical training is so focused on problems that many physicians have a hard time focusing on all the good they do. A small acknowledgement from a patient can go a long way in helping them see that good.

Wish #4: We truly value your time and patience
If your physician is running late, it may be because they are forced to see too many patients. It may seem odd as a patient but these days, doctors typically have little control over how their day is booked. Often they can have two patients put in the same time slot, sometimes three! So running late may not be their fault and completely out of their control. 

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