Friday, May 13, 2016

I'm Tired Of Reading About Physician Burnout


You drag it around like a ball and chain
You wallow in the guilt; you wallow in the pain
You wave it like a flag, you wear it like a crown
Got your mind in the gutter, bringin' everybody down
Complain about the present and blame it on the past
I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass.

Get over it
Get over it
All this bitchin' and moanin' and pitchin' a fit
Get over it, get over it.

"Get Over It" by The Eagles

Sometimes it feels like the phrase "physician burnout" is the most important medical topic among doctors. It seems to appear at least five times a day in KevinMD. Medscape has an annual survey just for this subject. The current issue of the ASA Monitor has an article devoted to anesthesiologist burnout. According to a Mayo Clinic study, anesthesiology is one of the unlucky seven medical fields with both a high burnout rate and low work/life balance. The other specialties with this dubious record include radiology, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, family medicine, urology, and neurology. Though to anesthesia's credit, we are just barely on the burnout and work/life imbalance quadrant of the graph. Does that mean anesthesiologists are almost but not quite happy with their chosen lifestyle?

Personally I'm burned out from reading about physician burnout. As I mentioned years ago, doctors can whine and complain about how hard it is to practice medicine, but frankly nobody else gives a damn. Why should they? Even the lowest paid physician is doing better than most of the rest of the country. Unemployment among doctors is virtually nil. A medical degree still carries with it respect and admiration from most people. Doctors have the privilege and responsibility to query their patients' personal lives in ways that the CIA or the FBI can only dream about.

Yet physician misery seems to becoming more ubiquitous. I don't think it's a mere coincidence that this talk about job dissatisfaction has arisen shortly after the change in resident work hours. Whereas before one was supposed to lament about missing half the cases when they're on every other night call, now the residents expect to have nap times during the day and weekends off. Is it any wonder that when they finish their training and start working in the real world that they become overwhelmed? Suddenly having the day off post call is not automatically granted anymore. Patients don't care if you've been up all night. You're the responsible physician and they will call you to take care of them even if you only got two hours of rest the night before. The ability to learn from hardship has been removed by the benevolent but misguided government bureaucrats.

Now the poor dears don't know what to do but gripe about how difficult their professional careers turned out to be. As the Skeptical Scalpel points out, all this grumbling may be infecting others who before may not have given a second thought about workplace difficulties but now find it socially acceptable to cry like a child who doesn't get his way.

So you know what all you complainers? Your patients, your hospital staff, and your physician colleagues don't owe you a damn thing to make your life better. Just pack up your sad sack and take it back to your momma's house where somebody may actually care. If you don't find satisfaction with your hard earned career choice, then find solace outside of work such as your family, your church, your hobbies, your exercise routine. Take a vacation. Go on a sabbatical. Do some volunteer work in an underprivileged neighborhood to come face to face with what real hardship looks like. Don't bring me down to your level because you don't know how to deal with stress. Being a doctor has always been stressful. Nothing has changed but the embarrassing complaining.

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