Preventing physician burnout
Preventing physician burnout

Preventing physician burnout

Read articles by Jackie Farley
Jackie Farley

Table of Contents

As a physician, you likely spend time telling patients how harmful the effects of stress can be. The irony of this is you may find yourself battling depression, anxiety, or even physical ailments such as headaches elevated blood pressure and stomach issues – all because you are giving everything you can to improve the health of others. Too many patients, too many hours and too many government regulations have added pressure to an already demanding occupation. Sometimes, that means working while sick, sleep deprived or mentally exhausted and still making critical decisions that affect your patients. This level of stress can quickly lead to burnout, but there are many ways of preventing physician burnout.


What can you do to keep yourself healthy so that you can continue healing others? The first step may be understanding the same strengths that make you a great physician also make you more susceptible to burnout. Many physicians strive for exceptional performance while also being hard on themselves. Combine this with the tendency to overprioritize the needs of others, and it’s a prescription for trouble.

Cris Berlingeri, M.D. a dermatopathologist with U.S. Dermatology Partners and life coach to physicians and others recovering from burnout says, “We are trained in these professions, particularly as physicians, that everybody (else) comes first, and you go last. You’re in a surgery, and it takes seven hours, and you don’t want to leave to use the restroom. We’re trained to deny our bodily necessities like sleep and rest. But we’re mammals. We’re animals, and we need to take care of ourselves. Burnout is a stress response. It’s like the brain is saying ‘OK, we’re in danger. Let me take over.”

One of the most critical things you can do is learn to recognize the symptoms of burnout in yourself. This isn’t always easy because burnout affects everyone differently. Some possible symptoms to look for are:

  • Emotional stress even when you are physically and chemically well
  • Strong emotion without an obvious or specific trigger
  • Feelings of exhaustion or inability to cope with everyday situations
  • Feelings of cynicism or depersonalization
  • A loss of confidence in your own abilities
  • Spiritual void or emotional apathy

The encouraging news is that physicians can prevent burnout as early as the job interview process by doing a little research and asking a few key questions. To stay ahead of burnout symptoms:

  • Research board questionnaires in any state where you’re considering practicing
  • Ask prospective employers about their workplace efficiency, workload, models of care, and team roles
  • Research staff ratios in your specialty
  • Ask about staff turnover and retention efforts
  • Watch for red flags in the answers employers give
  • Consider negotiating time off when you negotiate your contract


You can also take preventative steps in how you react to the stressors of your day to head off burnout before it hits. To best manage stress:

  • Have a support network of colleagues, friends and family in place to turn to before there’s a problem
  • Process your emotions, and be aware of your own emotional well-being
  • Practice self-compassion
  • Reframe stressors as choices
  • Be prepared to take time off
  • Try to budget ahead to give yourself some options

Preventing burnout doesn’t just benefit your own mental well-being and quality of life, it can also benefit the quality of care you are able to provide to your patients- and that makes everyone a whole lot healthier.

Read articles by Jackie Farley

Jackie Farley

Easy to Register >> Control your visibility >> 100% free

Take control of your Job Search

Recommended PracticeLink Magazine Blogs

How expanding telehealth is helping providers treat patients and provide care to everyone during this time. How expanding telehealth is helping providers treat patients and provide care to everyone during this time.
PracticeLink MagazineNovember 3, 2020
Expanding telehealth to help providers
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many industries and has had an especially large impact on health care. Because of this,
Incorporate diet and exercise in both your personal and professional life to form healthy habits. Incorporate diet and exercise in both your personal and professional life to form healthy habits.
PracticeLink MagazineFebruary 9, 2021
Healthy habits make healthy providers
Did you ever think your patients could benefit from you following the same advice you offer them? Healthy habits like