Definition of Burnout
So what exactly is burnout, and how can you assess whether you might be experiencing symptoms of it? Indications of burnout can include physical and emotional exhaustion, reduced professional efficacy and a generally negative or pessimistic outlook on life. A severely burned out physician is more likely to make crucial medical errors, contemplate leaving his/her job and even (in more extreme cases) decide to exit the medical profession entirely.
Effects of Burnout
If neglected, burnout can wreak havoc on both the individual experiencing it and those around him/her.
FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT:
Burnout can lead to depression, substance abuse and strained or fractured relationships.
Effects of Burnout
IN THE PROFESSIONAL ARENA
Burnout typically results in decreased productivity and a loss of ability to find meaning in one’s work. It can negatively influence clinical judgment, which may lead to an uptick in medical errors. Ineffective communication with colleagues and patients is yet another repercussion of burnout, thus provoking a vicious cycle of reduced quality of care for patients and unhealthy interpersonal dynamics with fellow team members.
Physicians Report Being Burned Out
Source: the Advisory Board
It is important to recognize that a variety of factors contribute to avoiding (or recovering from) burnout. These include realizing a sense of value in one’s work, maintaining a realistic workload, having access to adequate resources for accomplishing work well, achieving healthy work-life integration (which may include some flexibility in professional schedule) and cultivating involvement in supportive communities, both within and outside of work. Engagement with narrative medicine can also be helpful for contemplating and processing emotions and experiences that, if repressed, may contribute to burnout. For additional useful information, please see this this infographic on counteracting physician burnout from the Advisory Board.
BWH Resources for Building Resiliency and Countering Burnout
Partners Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers BWH employees a myriad of excellent resources for coping with job-related stress and learning how to respond to difficult situations with resiliency.