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Your Doctor is Burned Out

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged stress. 79% of primary care physicians suffer from it.

It’s bad for specialists, too.  According to an InCrowd study, 57% of them feel burned out and strain under a heavy workload.

What should be a rewarding profession has, for many, become a grind as doctors struggle to keep up with an increasing workload and a changing technological workspace.

As older doctors leave the field, and fewer students enter med school, the doctors who remain are burdened with work demands that leave many of them with risks to their mental health and a poor quality of life.

And all too often, poor quality of work.

A doctor suffering from burnout is twice as likely to make a mistake.  Medical mistakes result in over 100,000 deaths per year.  The cost of burnout related mistakes, reduced productivity, and increased doctor turnover is estimated to add $5 billion to healthcare costs each year.

The primary reason doctors give for burnout is the amount of time spent with, and poor design of, electronic medical record systems.  Primary care physicians now spend half their day on administrative tasks.

Doctors rely more and more on nurses to get through their day, and burnout has hit the nursing profession as well.  In a survey of 900 nurses, half say they have considered leaving nursing in the past two years.  They cite burnout from the heavy workload as their main reason.

It’s surprising that in 2019, with all of the advances in work flow and productivity made possible by technology, that doctors would cite poor technology used in note-taking and record-keeping as the prime source of their frustration.

Incompatible billing systems, competing providers and HIPPA laws make developing effective technology for doctors difficult.  Yet, of the 25% (only) of doctors who say their employers are working to alleviate stress and burnout, half say the biggest improvements have come from easier to use note-taking and record-keeping systems.  Some healthcare companies are listening.

The results of serious burnout and the poor work environment of doctors seem to be doctors leaving the field and fewer people studying to enter medicine.  58% of current doctors would not recommend the field to people considering careers in medicine.

By 2030, the US could face a shortage of more than 120,000 doctors.  This will only lead to a heavier workload and more burnout of those who remain, unless technology can be leveraged to alleviate doctors’ workload.

I guess we should all be more kind to our doctors.  We go to see them when we feel bad, but they may be having a worse day than we are.



Your Doctor is Burned Out

George Hofmann

George is the author of Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis, from Changemakers Books. Visit George's site or join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness

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APA Reference
Hofmann, G. (2019). Your Doctor is Burned Out. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Aug 2019
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