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Recognizing the Signs of Physician Burnout and Suggestions to Get Back in Balance

Approximately one-third of physicians report experiencing burnout. It is characterized by emotional exhaustion, a decreasing sense of accomplishment, and general cynicism about the medical profession. Are you distracted, overloaded, and stressed? Being a doctor, at this time, is stressful. It is hard to be continuously caring and empathetic in this changing and ambiguous healthcare environment. Do you suffer from some or all of these characteristics?

Burnout is much more common than you think and is the direct result of being a physician. Physicians often think of themselves as a superhero and many times you accomplish superhuman feats. But everyone needs a little time to re-center, take a breath, and be mindful. We hear millennials want work-life balance, why not you?

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This week’s issue of Risk E-Notes provides some helpful ways to deal with stress and burnout. We hope these suggestions help you get back in balance.

Ann Whitehead, JD, RN
Vice President, Risk Management and Patient Safety


As a physician, you took an oath that said, “First, Do No Harm.” That means in caring for both your patients and yourself.

Here are a few suggestions to get back in balance:

  1. First and foremost, try to eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. If your diet and sleep patterns are not optimal, your mental and physical health will eventually take a toll. 
  2. Partake in an activity that has nothing to do with medicine or healthcare, e.g. read, write, go to the movies, travel, or volunteer. This can help you relax and rejuvenate.
  3. Socialize, have breakfast, lunch or dinner with family, friends, colleagues. Sometimes just having the opportunity to talk about your feelings with others can help. (Note: If you are having serious issues with anxiety or depression please consult a healthcare professional.)
  4. Exercise in whatever way you like, whether it is going to the gym or taking part in a fun family exercise outing. Make this a priority.
  5. Given your spirituality preferences, you can go to church, meditate, do yoga, take Tai Chi, get massages, or any type of mindfulness activity that will get you centered and in the “present moment.”
  6. Last but not least, laugh at yourself and others. The more you laugh at yourself, the better you will feel and it’s good for your health.


Submitted by Sue Jones, CPHRM
Senior Risk Management and Patient Safety Specialist


This information should not be considered legal advice applicable to a specific situation. Legal guidance for individual matters should be obtained from a retained attorney.