What is burnout?
Before we can help we must learn what we are dealing with. Burnout is a specific combination of chronic stress and depression that leads to exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness. It is often found among working professionals in any high-stress career. But no work-related stress compares to that of a physician.
Sure, physicians usually have a lot on their plates and wear many hats. But they also deal with tough situations, such as the bearer of bad news and witnessing death more often than they’d like to. Such situations naturally take a toll on the physician both mentally and physically. And the joys and rewards of being a medical professional can be easily overshadowed by such negative emotions. Okay, so some doctors are feeling the pressure, what’s the big deal?
USNews reported, “doctors are 15 times more likely to burnout than professionals in any other line of work, and 45 percent of primary care physicians report that they would quit if they could afford to do so”. The list of reasons and effects of physician burnout, such as medical errors, can go on and on.
Signs of Physician Burnout
As a locum you may feel there’s not much you can do to combat physician burnout. But the fact is, there’s plenty you could do to help those suffering from burnout. Physicians may be surrounded by their full-time staff that know them much better than you ever will, but a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective has the advantage here.
First, you have to know how to identify it. But, identifying any type of stress or depression is no easy task. In fact, it can be easily misidentified with something entirely different, like plain old stress. We mentioned before that burnout leads to exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness. So those are your three major red flags to identify physician burnout. But could you effectively spot them as an outsider?
A few signs of physical and emotional exhaustion you may be able to spot just by observing are: impaired concentration/attention, little or no appetite, and irritability. If you spot a physician or nurse that has a loss of enjoyment in their work or isolating/detaching themselves from others and their work, they may be experiencing cynicism. Lastly, signs of ineffectiveness often translate to a sense of hopelessness, a lacking of performance and productivity.
What Can A Locum Tenen Do About Physician Burnout?
Now that you know what physician burnout is, why it happens, and how to identify it, what can you do about it? It’s as simple as two words: be kind. First and foremost, make your suspicions aware to the appropriate authority. Then, do what you can to make their day a little better. Offer to help when you can to ease their workload a bit, to give them time to take a break. Praise them whenever you get a chance, because if not you then who?