The doctor you trust with managing your stress is probably more stressed than you are.
There, I said it. How does that make you feel?
It’s a little nerve-wracking to think of your doctor as being anything other than calm, cool, and collected. After all, they never seem to get sick, feel sad, or be anxious. They are just always there, providing a calm presence when you’re sick and vulnerable.
Yet physician burnout is a real thing. According to a study in Arch Intern Med., 45.8% of the physicians surveyed admitted to having at least one symptom of physician burnout. But, what is it and should you be worried?
What is Physician Burnout?
Some researchers have stated that at least 1 in 3 physicians in the United States are experiencing burnout at any given time. Burnout takes place when long-term stress experienced on the job turns into physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms may not affect all doctors the same, but they can have astounding consequences on them and the patients they treat.
And, it’s much worse than stress. Physician burnout happens when doctors can’t feel refreshed after some time off. Instead, they come back to the office feeling as if they never left and bringing all their baggage with them. This can lead to complete exhaustion, feelings of depression and anxiety, feelings of helplessness or failure, physical symptoms like nausea and headaches, and more. In extreme cases, suicide might feel like the only way out.
How Does This Affect You?
Depending on the doctor, physician burnout may never affect you at all. Some doctors are experts at hiding their burnout symptoms. Others may show it in ways you won’t realize until they do affect you. For example, a doctor experiencing burnout could become disorganized and forgetful. It’s not impossible for him or her to miss an important symptom for your diagnosis or fail to write a crucial piece of information in your file.
Still, we have to remember that our physicians are people, too. They work incredibly long hours to ensure our health and safety. If we’re stressed, they probably feel it ten-fold. You make mistakes on the job at times, of course, and some of those mistakes could be because of stress. Doctors aren’t immune to stress and anxiety, but they often don’t get the help they need. So, next time you have a visit, a simple “How are you doing?” can probably go a long way.