MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Physician burnout is nothing new.
Most doctors experience it at one time or another throughout their career; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the conversation to the forefront.
Medicine is one field that will always be needed, but that demand has put a strain on a lot of medical professionals.
“Physician burnout is a huge problem in medicine, and has been greatly exacerbated, as you can imagine, the past two years of the pandemic, and added stressors to the job,” said Dr. Eric Giddens, Baptist Memorial Hospital physician.
Wearing many hats, Dr. Giddens is not only a physician at Baptist - he is also the Memphis OBYN Association President.
He has experienced physician burnout first-hand.
“My wife is a physician. And so, we always had to juggle the two careers and having kids,” said Dr. Giddens.
He has found a way to juggle that work-life balance.
“I try to focus on having healthy habits and I try to exercise regularly. And I will recognize I need to have some planned time off. I'm very much a workaholic,” said Dr. Giddens.
Most physicians are workaholics. That is why recognizing physician burnout is so important.
“A lot of these come to light through some, I hate to say it, but from disrupted behavior - doctors being short tempered with medical staff or exhibiting behavior that's not professional,” said Dr. Giddens. “They can cause medical mistakes... They're not focused on their job, a loss of productivity. Suddenly, physicians are not efficient.”
These are all signs of burnout. It can be caused by changes in the health care system, administrative duties, or even changes in technology.
“It's estimated 50% of physicians suffer from burnout at some point in their career, at least,” said Dr. Giddens. “With the pandemic, we did see a number of retirements from physicians, particularly older physicians that were close to retirement... You have a lot more women going into to medicine being physicians, and I think they have the added burden of a lot of family responsibilities, too.”
Some health facilities have implemented wellness programs to help doctors manage stress.
“We all want to be productive healthcare providers, and we want to provide excellent care to our patients and safe care to our patients. And a doctor suffering from burnout could be a liability toward those things,” said Dr. Giddens.
Their goal is to meet medical needs while also putting self-care first.