Physician Burnout and Why it is Important to Heal Outside of Work
In This Article
- When physicians dedicate their lives to giving care to patients, they often forget to take care of themselves
- The greatest risk of physician burnout is suicide
- When doctors take care of themselves, they serve as better role models for their patients and see positive outcomes such as higher patient satisfaction and safety scores, less burnout and longer lives
- Doctors should set limits for themselves, do things they are passionate about outside of work and be present when spending time with loved ones
Nasrien E. Ibrahim, MD, associate director, Resynchronization & Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics Programcardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, observes that when physicians dedicate their lives to giving care to patients, they often forget to take care of themselves.
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Paperwork, patient demands, imposter syndrome and medical school loans constitute some of the many factors that cause physician burnout. The greatest risk of physician burnout is suicide. About 400 doctors commit suicide each year, which according to Dr. Ibrahim, is the equivalent of two to three medical school graduating classes. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the suicide rate for male doctors is 40% higher than men in general, and the rate for female doctors is 130% higher than women in general.
Dr. Ibrahim believes that physicians succeed when they prioritize their physical and mental health. When doctors take care of themselves, they serve as better role models for their patients and see positive outcomes such as higher patient satisfaction and safety scores, have less burnout and live longer. Physicians' relationships with their colleagues, friends and loved ones can improve as well.
It is important for physicians to know ways to take care of themselves. Dr. Ibrahim says that doctors should recognize when to set limits for themselves. They should engage in life outside of medicine and enjoy their passions outside of work.
Dr. Ibrahim also advises physicians to put work aside when they are on vacation or over the weekend. By doing so, they can be more present with friends and family. She believes that in the end, these are the moments that will matter most.
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