Learn about the state of physician burnout today and find solutions for alleviating stress in your day-to-day to achieve balance and live a happier, more rewarding life.
If you’re a healthcare provider, chances are you have experienced symptoms of burnout yourself or have colleagues who are currently facing extreme career dissatisfaction. It’s a rotten side-effect of our existing healthcare system and the strain on doctors, nurse practitioners, medical directors, and healthcare support staff dealing with a fractured and increasingly demanding system.
Even if you’re fresh out of school and enthusiastic about your career ahead, it’s important to check in with yourself and practice stress management on an ongoing basis to fend off the dire outcomes of burnout - depression or worse.
In this article, you’ll find out more about physician stress and burnout, get stress management tips for reducing and preventing burnout, and consider the changes you can make now to live a happier more balanced life doing what you were called to do – help and heal patients.
Statistics on Physician Stress and Burnout
Stress and burnout are problems that aren’t going away for healthcare providers. Physicians are 15 times more likely to experience burnout versus any other working professionals leading to a stronger desire to quit, decreased productivity, increased errors in work, and, sadly, higher divorce rates.
Medscape’s 2019 National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report found that 44% of those polled from 29 specialties reported physician burnout. While it may seem logical that physicians working in emergency medicine report the highest levels of physician stress, Medscape found that doctors in several other specialties, including urology and neurology, reported burnout at higher rates. Females are more likely to report burnout than males, as well as those working in groups and organizations versus solo practices, and most blame the feeling on redundant work and long hours.
While some physicians may engage in healthy coping skills, like exercising, talking to others, and sleeping, others have reported isolation, binge eating, smoking, and drinking as ways they have coped with physician stress and burnout.
Many physicians do not seek help for these feelings, because they put most of the blame on a system that fosters a higher-stress environment. Instead, they do what they can to alleviate it, like reducing hours at work. However, physician shortages partially due to burnout have also led to an increase in nurse practitioners in the field, putting them at risk as well.
8 Stress Management Tips for Physicians and NPs
If you find yourself falling into an unhealthy mindset, the following ideas could be great ways to relieve stress and even help prevent physician burnout.
1. Choose an exercise routine that motivates
Many physicians experiencing burnout use exercise to relieve stress, but it can be hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym when you’re mentally and physically exhausted from a long day at work. Try adding some novelty into your normal routine and take exercise classes that are outside of the norm: Barre classes, surfboard workouts, and boxing classes combined with yoga or strength training are popping up across the country. (Feeling adventurous? Say, “bahhhmaste” with a goat yoga practice – seriously, this is a thing.) The most important thing is to find a workout that works for you so that you stick to it and look forward to the next time.
2. Add some humor into your life
It’s a well-worn cliché to say that laughter is the best medicine, but it works wonders at relieving stress and tension. Outside of short-term benefits, laughter also has long-term perks like aiding in pain relief and boosting your overall outlook. Find a comedy club nearby or check out your local movie theater and schedule a date night with your sense of humor. If you’re more of an extrovert, enroll in an improv class. It’s a great physician stress management tool, plus it may help you get better at interacting with your patients, no matter what they throw at you.
3. Download a self-care app
We’re all guilty of looking at our phones in idle moments. Why not dedicate some of those moments to engaging in self-improvement? Fabulous and Habitbull give you the nudge you need to reset and engage in healthy habits (either one they suggest or one you believe will help you feel your best). Happify is an app built specifically to increase your happiness in several areas of your life through games, exercises, and commitments to yourself and those around you. Fitness apps like Fitbit can work in tandem with your exercise goals, plus track your sleep and water intake. If you’re looking to slow down more, download a meditation app like Headspace or Calm. Whatever you’re looking to improve, there’s likely an app, or five, for it.
4. Join a support group
It may be hard to find people in your life who understand what you’re going through outside of your profession, and you may not want to talk to coworkers about your feelings. Supportive networking is the next best thing. Search your local area for specific physician support groups, or join one of the many emerging on Facebook. Having others to talk to about physician stress and burnout can help you feel less isolated and better understood. And, who knows, people in the group may have come up with solutions you haven’t thought of yet.
5. Escape into a book or video game
Distraction is a powerful tool in both stress and pain management. Reading is a relaxing activity that can also help you sleep. The distraction of playing a video game can help lessen the sensation of pain, a symptom that can come along with the tension of a high-stress job. Choose a genre that appeals to you and dive-in to another world.
6. Practice what you preach
Think about what you advise your patients to do when they come in talking about being stressed or burned out. Is the advice you give to others something you follow yourself? If not, why not? Putting to practice the advice you give to others is a great way to take care of yourself, and it may also give you other ideas to offer to patients in future consults.
7. Do something with your hands
Art therapy, or even less formally, anything artistic or creative that you can do with your hands, is great for relieving stress and improving balance in your life. If you’ve always wanted to get into an art or craft but don’t know where to start, craft kits are a great way to figure out what you’d be interested in doing long-term. Visit a craft store to pick one up, or learn from a service like Bluprint.
8. Change your career
If all else fails, it may be time to consider a career change. Unfortunately, front-line clinicians like family doctors and emergency practitioners are the most susceptible to burnout and dissatisfaction with work-life balance. Luckily, there are plenty of alternative career options for healthcare professionals looking for a change – one of which is telemedicine.
Telemedicine is a growing healthcare specialty where the demand for physicians and NPs is greatest among family, urgent care, and emergency providers. A job in telemedicine can provide a more flexible lifestyle with a 100% online job where you set your own rules in a competitive and lucrative industry – and it could be your low-stress solution for preventing physician burnout entirely.
Interested in learning more? At Wheel, we’re helping clinicians achieve balance by walking away from more traditional roles and into a rewarding career that could change your life. Sign up to explore telemedicine jobs and learn more about telehealth career possibilities.