Burnout: Is it me or is the system designed that way?

It feels like doctor burnout could always be in the news. It is not so much a story as a constant fact.  The numbers, like the situation, are depressing.  Dr John La Puma in a KevinMD post cites a 2012 JAMA article by Tait D. Shanafelt, MD et al on physician burnout that is offered free on the JAMA web site.  In the article they write:

“The fact that almost 1 in 2 US physicians has symptoms of burnout implies that the origins of this problem are rooted in the environment and care delivery system rather than in the personal characteristics of a few susceptible individuals. Policy makers and health care organizations must address the problem of physician burnout for the sake of physicians and their patients.”

And burnout is no small matter manifesting itself as “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low personal accomplishment” according to the article.

A recent article in Time magazine Burnout in the Hospital: Why Doctors Are Set Up for Stress focuses on an article by Anthony Montgomery titled The inevitability of physician burnout: Implications for interventions in Burnout Research, a new journal dedicated to research on burnout in general.

Montgomery asks an important question in his paper “Is physician burnout an appropriate and expected response to medicine as a system?”  The point is well taken.  Is burnout an individual experience in medicine or is the unintended consequence of the current medical delivery system?  Obviously, this is an important question when coming up with a solution.

Anecdotally, talking to doctors, it is hard not to connect burnout with the doctors’ feelings of alienation from process of delivering care.  Thinking about burnout as a systemic issue, as opposed to an individual issue, seems like an important step in addressing the problem.

We would love to hear doctors talk about burnout and interventions.  What has worked?  What has been tried?  What is your experience?

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