Landing a doctor job is no task for the faint of heart. You have to jump through hoops beginning in high school where you have to earn perfect grades to get into a decent college. Then you have to ace college. Then you have to get into medical school and survive four of the most arduous years of your life with the smartest people in the country. After that, you have to do a minimum of three years of additional training to be able to apply for quality doctor jobs. All the while, you are abused, overworked, underpaid, and have sacrificed thousands of precious hours burning the midnight oil to stuff your oversaturated brains with the most esoteric facts and figures. But what keeps you going is the promise of better days. Days filled with meaningful relationships with patients. Smiles and words of deep gratitude from grateful patients. The personal satisfaction of being able to tackle medical and surgical challenges. Being able to provide wonderful opportunities for your children. Being respected by your family and peers. Learning new things every day and having the time to really research and understand complex medical and surgical cases. Being your own boss and hiring employees who treat you with respect, work hard, and care for patients with utmost compassion and integrity.
Unfortunately, many physicians harboring these delicious fantasies realize that their lollipop dream is over and they have to either face some very harsh realities or become devoured by the evil cloud of BURNOUT. These are the top seven causes of physician burnout according to the 2013 DoctorCPR Physician Group.
- Getting sued by a patient: You have chosen a medical job to help people. When people–whom you intended to help–throw lawsuits in your face, they announce that you have harmed them due to your incompetence. There are no trivial lawsuits because they can all put a dent on your record—even if they have absolutely no merit. Burnout happens when lawsuits take a toll on your self confidence and make you question your choice of a medical career.
- Reputation assaults in the media and on the internet: Unfortunately, the internet can be one of the worse inventions for doctors. Disgruntled patients, competitive colleagues, ex-spouses, and fired employees can all get on the internet with a couple easy clicks and destroy physicians’ reputations in less than an hour. There is no question that these actions can lead to severe feelings of burnout. The good news: “reputation management” companies have emerged to help doctors sweep up these defamatory messes. The bad news: resurrecting your reputation is not cheap.
- Working for someone else: As physicians, we are always working for the patient. But when you are working for an administrator, board, or other overriding physicians, it is very hard to assert what you think is fair and what you think is best. You can become a marionette. With the patients controlling one string attached to your body and your administrators controlling the other string. Enough jerking around by everyone in the office, and you can really feel beaten down. Burnout happens when you, yourself, can’t make decisions about what is best for you and your patients.
- Not loving what you do: Too many physicians choose specialties that do not match their core personalities or passions. Many physicians choose a medical specialty that they think will impress everyone, afford them a flexible schedule, allow them to take over the family business, or give them the opportunity to make the most money. However, many physicians really don’t enjoy their jobs. For example, many doctors choose to become surgeons, and when they go to the operating room, they go ballistic, or get major depression, every time there is a complication. Some physicians choose psychiatry, and they start to go crazy listening to people’s complaints all day. Some doctors choose pediatrics. They discover that while they thought they absolutely love kids, they really don’t love dealing with crying, sick children and their demanding parents. Life is short and the sacrifices to attain a medical job are great. You had better love your work, or you will feel burnout sooner than you think.
- Working crazy hours: When you haven’t seen your kids or your partner in several days, you are aching to fall asleep at all hours of the day, and you just haven’t had time to sit and eat a proper meal, you know that you are working too many hours. It doesn’t matter if you wake up at 4 AM or you come home at 9 pm, working more than 10 hours a day for the rest of your life will start wearing you down. Going to the office on weekends to catch up on mountains of dictations and paper work is a quick and easy recipe for burnout.
- Not getting paid in proportion to your sacrifices: This speaks for itself. Many physicians continue to watch their reimbursements plummet every year. You start to see more patients and work harder and then–once again—another financial cutback is established by insurance companies and the federal government. When physician reimbursements go down, you have to work even harder to make ends meet, and medical liability goes up. You become a victim of burnout.
- Having an unsupportive family: If you come from a close-knit family of physicians, this helps tremendously in staving off burnout, as there is a basic level of understanding about your lifestyle choice. However, if your spouse or your spouse’s family is clueless about the level of commitment required for a doctor job, then you may be on the road to burnout if you don’t watch out. If you are still single, look for a partner who is in the medical profession. If you can’t find another healthcare professional to marry, it is important to marry someone who truly respects and deeply understands all of the sacrifices you took to attain your career goals as a physician. This person needs to be able to support you through all the remaining sacrifices and hardships that doctor jobs demand.
DoctorCPR Physician Group