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How to Combat Burnout in the Medical Field

The World Health Organization just recently upgraded burnout from a “state of exhaustion” to a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress” in its International Disease Classification. And while anyone can suffer from burnout—overworked employees, overscheduled children, and harried parents—burnout seems to really be taking its toll on those in the medical field.

Burnout Factors and Symptoms

So what does burnout look like? Individuals with burnout will suffer from high rates of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a low sense of personal accomplishment due to chronic occupational stress. These three factors can be measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, with higher scores indicating greater levels of symptoms (while burnout and depression are closely linked, researchers believe that each condition simply predisposes the other). People suffering from burnout may experience some or all of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Depression
  • Diminished attention and dedication
  • Disengagement
  • Hostility
  • Insomnia
  • Worsened physical health

Potential outcomes of burnout include alcohol or substance abuse, damaged relationships or divorce, and even suicide.

Burnout Among Physicians and Surgeons

A recent study of members of the American College of Surgeons reveals that 40% of responding surgeons screened positively for burnout, 30% screened positively for depression, and that the incidence of burnout has been increasing across all medical specialties.  Additionally, studies showed that those in front-line surgical specialties, such as trauma and general surgery, are at higher risk.

Unfortunately, burnout doesn’t just affect the physician, but also negatively impacts their families, colleagues, and the quality of care they provide to their patients; the American College of Surgeons has proven a direct association between burnout scores and the likelihood of committing a major medical error.

“I was waking up as tired as when I went to bed, and I was going to bed incredibly tired,” Dan Diamond, MD, told Medical Economics. “I had intense physical and emotional exhaustion and doubted whether I was actually making a difference in medicine for such incredible sacrifices.”

Combating Burnout in the Medical Field

Burnout didn’t keep Dan Diamond down for long. Today, he has a new mindset, following a personal epiphany that came to him during his time serving as director of the mass casualty triage unit at the New Orleans Convention Center following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “What got my attention were the people that in spite of losing everything, did not become victims,” he says. “Instead they became unstoppable and I wanted to become unstoppable myself.”

To combat burnout, Diamond encourages physicians to remember their passion for medicine and not let challenges—from busy waiting rooms to cranky patients—drag them down. Instead, he recommends that physicians become “empowered givers,” focusing on their medical team and their patients. He believes that by shifting attention to the team and its performance, work becomes more manageable and care improves.

Other techniques for combatting burnout recommended by the American College of Surgeons include:

  • Nurturing personal and professional lives and stressing work/life balance.
  • Placing greater emphasis on finding meaning in daily work.
  • Focusing on what is important in life, and maintaining a positive outlook.
  • Employing mindfulness techniques, consciously expressing gratitude, and celebrating small victories.

BandGrip: Doing Our Part to Fight PHYSICIAN Burnout

While BandGrip may not be able to help ease administrative burdens or other common stressors, it is able to save doctors and surgeons time—something that is in short supply, whether it’s emergency trauma surgery or a routine orthopedic procedure. BandGrip is a non-invasive Micro-Anchor Skin Closure 3.5”x1.5” bandage that is designed for speed and ease of use (it can also be tiled for large incisions or lacerations). It reduces scarring and the chance of infection, improving the patient experience. It can be applied by any member of the health care staff, and it doesn’t require a return trip for removal, giving back precious minutes to doctors and surgeons that they can spend on themselves or their next patient.

Advanced Wound Closure