Any employee can suffer from burnout at one time or another. Teachers can certainly hit the end of their rapidly fraying ropes as holidays approach. Construction workers may feel the urge to call it quits after working all day in 106-degree heat. And office workers sometimes feel the need to invoke the movie “Office Space” and take their stress out on the paper-jammed copy machine.
Most burned out employees do not directly endanger anyone simply by suffering job-related fatigue and frustration. However, when healthcare providers hit their limit, they are more likely to compromise patient safety, erode the quality of their patients’ care and engage in unsafe and unprofessional behavior commonly referred to as medical malpractice.
Unfortunately, approximately half of all American physicians indicate that they suffer from one or more symptoms of professional burnout, according to a study conducted by the American Medial Association and the Mayo Clinic. These results were recently published in the highly reputable Archives of Internal Medicine.
It is important to avoid physicians who are exhibiting signs of burnout whenever possible, because although their symptoms are understandable consequences of their profession, you do not want to find yourself in a position to have your care affected by their emotional state. Do not be afraid to inquire about how your physician is approaching his or her work at any given time.
Symptoms of burnout to watch out for include cynicism, emotional exhaustion and lack of empathy, loss of enthusiasm for their job and patients, a decreased sense of personal accomplishment and depersonalization.
We all understand that human beings have limits, and American workplaces often demand more of individuals than they have to give. But when it comes to medical care, each patient deserves a doctor who is adequately rested and engaged.