Skip to main content

How Physicians Can Fight Burnout And Its Consequences

We tend to consider physician burnout to be univariate when it is actually multivariate with far-reaching consequences. Burnout is associated with increased medical errors and malpractice suits.1 Exhaustion and medical error are cyclically intertwined negatively. Healthcare-associated infections, malpractice suits, patient mortality ratios and the deterioration of hospital interpersonal teamwork are correlated with symptoms linked to burnout.

A component of health care provider burnout is depersonalization, negatively influencing patient satisfaction rates and patient adherence.1 When health care providers are dissatisfied with their jobs, they have a 200 percent higher chance of leaving their job.1 Emotional exhaustion is associated with reduced work production. Reduced production and job hopping add strain to the healthcare system. Significant organizational costs are tied to turnover. The cost to replace a physician varies based on specialty but the range is from hundreds of thousands of dollars to $1 million.1

The personal consequences of burnout are astonishing. These physicians are at risk with a 25 percent increased odds of alcohol abuse/dependence and 200 percent increased odds of suicidal ideation.1 Male physician suicide rates are 40 percent higher than for other non-physician men and female physician suicide rates are 130 percent higher than for other non-physician women.

The work-related factors in physician burnout include:2
1.    Working too many hours
2.    Taking night or weekend calls
3.    Performing work-related tasks at home
4.    Having a work-home conflict
5.    Practicing in certain specialties
6.    Working in a private practice
7.    Receiving incentive pay
8.    Being a mid-career physician
9.    Having a career that doesn’t fit what you find most personally meaningful
10.    Using computerized physician order entry or enduring other clerical burdens

Additionally, demographic profiles increase the risk of burnout:1
1.    Women physicians
2.    Younger physicians
3.    Having a child younger than 21 years old
4.    Having a spouse/partner who works as a non-physician health care provider

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) is committed to serving as a resource for podiatric physicians via the APMA website: . The abundance of information on this page is an outstanding starting point to a physician at risk. The APMA Physician Recovery Network, led by Biff Kramer, DPM, offers a longstanding helping hand for impaired podiatric physicians. The APMA Board of Trustees submitted Resolution 3-19 to the 2019 House of Delegates with the resolve, “That the APMA Physician Recovery Network be reauthorized with appropriate funding to serve as APMA’s agent to assist podiatrists in identifying appropriate resources to ensure their ability to engage in recovery and maintain licensure to practice.”
Physician burnout can affect any of us and it is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms to intervene early. The ramifications personally, professionally and globally to the health care system can be devastating.

1.    Dyrbye LN, Shanafelt TD, Sinsky CA, et al. Burnout among health care professionals: A call to explore and address this underrecognized threat to safe, high-quality care. NAM Perspectives. Available at . Published July 5, 2017.
2.    Henry TA. Physician burnout: 10 work factors that hinder your well-being. American Medical Association. Available at Published Feb. 11, 2019.

Back to Top