A colleague (Lori K. Rogers, M.D., New Orleans), recently mentioned this to me:
“I’ve been thinking about my father’s career. The man was in a solo general surgery practice, and worked all the time. There were many years when he took only a single week off for vacation. But, interestingly, he was never burned out. I am thinking hard on that, trying to figure out how he wasn’t burned out, wondering if he had some secret-sauce!“
Physician Burn-out is Becoming Prevalent
As I considered possible differences in the practice of medicine then, compared to now, to explain why physician burn-out is becoming more prevalent, it occurred to me that our society has changed with regards to attitudes about health and personal responsibility. Could changes in our society contribute to burnout in doctors?
At the risk of offending non-physicians who may stumble upon and read this post, I’d like to pose the question to you: Do you think patients contribute to physician burnout?
Possible Reasons for Physician Burnout
Could patients contribute to doctor burnout because of any of the following theories:
- Patient respect for physicians has declined.
- In today’s fast-paced world, patients except quick-fixes.
- The word “patient” is being replaced with customer, with the implication that customer-service and customer satisfaction are more important than quality health care.
- Advertisements for certain medications and treatments are directed at patients, who present to their doctor insisting upon certain plans of treatment.
- Our society is trending towards a sense of self-entitlement. For example, patients present to their doctors angry and frustrated over their health insurance policies, and items that were not covered. Ie; all patients deserve to receive all health care.
- Patients expect doctors to “fix” them. There is a societal trend towards less self-responsibility.
- For various reasons (advertising for lawyers/attorneys, easier access to legal system), the threat of a patient seeking legal action against a doctor seems to loom in the background of every patient encounter.
The theories I have presented are not just my own; I’ve heard each of these ideas expressed many times in the 7 years I’ve been working with my colleagues on solutions for physician burnout. There are many components to burn-out, and there is not one cause for every doctor. However, we do all see patients. Could our patients be a component of burnout?