Met a colleague the other day in the hospital corridor who appeared uncharacteristically aloof and disinterested when we were discussing about a mutual patient we were managing. Taking into account his body language, it didn’t take too long to realise that he was exhibiting symptoms of burnout. A recent issue of the Archives of Surgery highlighted that as many as 38% of surgeons get burnout. It lists 10 reasons why doctors get burnout:
- Length of training and delayed “gratification”
- Long working hours and enormous workloads
- Imbalance between career and family
- Feeling isolated / not enough time to connect with colleagues
- Financial issues (salary, budgets, insurance issues)
- Grief and guilt about patient death or unsatisfactory outcome
- Insufficient protected research time and funding
- Sex- and age-related issues
- Inefficient and/or hostile work environment
- Setting unrealistic goals or having them imposed on oneself
I can add one more…the increasing threat of medical litigation!
So what is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation in your work, leading to loss in productivity and leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful.
The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life – including your domestic and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu.
Its also important to differentiate between being stressed and burnout…those under stress are aware that if everything is put under control, things would be better; whereas those who are burntout often don’t realise they are there already and often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situation.
On the road to burnout?
You could very well be if you agree with the following statements:
- Every day is a bad day.
- Caring about your work seems like a total waste of energy.
- You’re just plain tired all the time.
- The majority of your day is spent unproductively on tasks you find dull or overwhelming.
- Nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
Take this quiz to see if you are suffering from job burnout here.