By now in your medical career you may have read something about the burnout epidemic currently afflicting a lot of physicians. Our guess is you’re probably just as tired of hearing about physician burnout as you are tired of experiencing it yourself. But suffice it to say you’re not unique in your exhaustion. Simply put burnout isn’t inextricably bound to healthcare providers. This type of career stress impacts many professionals among many industries and fields. Just check out this article on LoveToKnow.com identifying other occupations with high burnout rates.
Yes you will see that physicians do top the list. In fact, in 2011 a national study was conducted by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic to “evaluate the prevalence of burnout and physicians’ satisfaction with work-life balance compared to the general U.S. population…” What were the findings? “At the time of that study, approximately 45 percent of U.S. physicians met criteria for burnout,” the study authors wrote. This is “attributed in part due to the demands and stress of patient care, long hours and increasing administrative burdens associated with practicing medicine.”
But let’s not focus on what we already know in the statistics; let’s direct our attention to addressing the causes. Because, rest assured, there’s a different way to look at this. Instead of seeing job burnout solely as a problem, see it as an opportunity to change directions.
You’re experiencing burnout for your own personal reasons, right? Sure, the statistics of physician burnout are there; still you have your unique experiences that lead to your very own type of burnout.
Tell you what let’s do this. Grab a piece of paper and take a minute to write down at least five reasons – that may or may not fall in line with the statistics – on why you’re experiencing stress in your current position. Do any of these fit the bill?
- You're experiencing lack of control in decision-making.
- You don't have an ideal work-life balance.
- You don't have enough face-to-face time with your patients.
- There are too many administrative tasks throughout the day.
- Your own self-care may be coming up short due to all of the above.
Some of these reasons impact professionals in many industries (i.e., lack of control in decision-making, not an ideal work-life balance, self-care may be coming up short) but the rest do fall more firmly in the field of healthcare. What do we do in everyday life when a problem – big or small – comes up? We fix it, don’t we?
Now take that piece of paper, throw it in the trash and grab another piece. Or rather write it in your notes app on your phone. Think about what your ideal physician job looks like and jot down some of the finer points. Is it much the opposite of the list above, stuff like more control in decision-making, more time spent with family and passions outside of work, more time with patients, less administrative tasks? If that’s your list then you probably know that self-care is going to fall out of that.
We’re not here to promise you that an international locum tenens opportunity will take care of all these issues; we’re just saying that to be mindful of your stresses is the first, most important step in addressing physician burnout, or rather, your own burnout.
You may be able to mediate these symptoms by simply bringing them to the foreground within the medical facility you’re working. Don’t do anything drastic. Just focus on lowering your stress levels by opening up communication on what’s bothering you in your current position. Dike Drummond, MD, addresses some of the more particular stresses that physicians face and how to solve them in this article on AAFP.org. It's a great read.
If you still deem it an uphill battle it may be time for a change. Again, regardless of career or industry, we all face a point in time where we must choose to move in a different direction. Consider the benefits of an international locum tenens opportunity when you’re faced with physician burnout. Here are just a few:
- There’s more patient care and less paperwork.
- You get to choose when and where you want to practice medicine.
- You’ll have the ability to see how physicians in different practice settings and different countries deliver care.
- Locum tenens helps you build a strong CV. (Think of the experience abroad as well as the ability to develop a unique skillset in a diverse background.)
- Lastly, you’ll get to explore landscapes and cultures you never thought possible.
Go ahead and read more about the advantages to the locum tenens lifestyle. Or another recommended read is 4 common misconceptions about the locum tenens lifestyle.
Again, we’re not here to tell you that the sole solution to all your problems is locum tenens because it’s not. You really do have to address why you’re feeling physician burnout and if the symptoms can be remedied by a locum tenens assignment overseas then great. But focus on why you’re burnt out in the first place. The point is to identify the cause (or causes) then seek out a solution. As a physician that process should be second nature anyways, just apply it to yourself. While you're at it don’t forget to view current international locum tenens opportunities with the click of a button below.