A Different Take On Physician Burnout

As most of you know, I spend a lot of my time reading about, thinking about and writing about physician burnout. For those of you who are not up to speed on my thinking as to why physician burnout  is so important for professionals in the pharmaceutical industry to understand, you can get a quick (Okay, it’s 45 minutes!) update by going to my recent Intellus presentation on the topic. In this presentation, and in most of what is written on the topic by me and by others, burnout is usually attributed to a physician being employed in a stressful workplace. It’s exogenous. External.

But check this out. What you will see is an interesting blog post by a Radiologist who is also a Certified Daring WayTM   Facilitator. In the latter role, she runs workshops that, in a nutshell, are designed to get people to feel better about themselves. And about their imperfections.  

Through this lens, Dr. O’Connell believes physician burnout can be managed using a “nifty” trick. She tells her colleagues to spend time thinking about what they would be doing for themselves if they weren’t so busy taking care of others. Like I said, this is a different take on burnout. It’s endogenous. Internal.

Bottom Line. Hopefully you are sitting there thinking that both perspectives are correct. Doubtless, working in a stressful environment is a major contributor to physician burnout. That’s what the doctors themselves tell us.

BUT. Why is it that about 50% of physician burn out and 50% don’t? I’m guessing that it is how the individual processes the external stress that leads to this fork in the roads.

On a practical note, I think Dr. O’Connell’s focus is the appropriate one. Individual physicians can’t change the stress in their environments. What they can do is to work on how they process the stress, and on not letting it diminish their own self-images.  

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