Approximately one-third of physicians report burnout at any given point in time. While healthcare HR departments and physicians alike find education and prevention strategies to be helpful, for immediate relief you may want to consider taking a break from clinical care, say experts.
“Like everyone, physicians need time to take a breath and recharge,” says Tom Florence, senior vice president of recruiting at Merritt Hawkins. “Taking regular vacation days to focus on paperwork instead of their patients allows doctors to return to patients with increased resilience to manage the issues they bring with compassion and enthusiasm.”
Shift the focus from patient work to paperwork
To avoid or sidestep burnout, you may not need to take actual vacation days. You could still go into the office but focus on offline activities: read journals, stay abreast of topics in the field, research ways to improve your practice, and catch up on administrative paperwork. The point is to take a break from attending to the constant stream of patient requirements and demands.
Say ‘No’ more often
Family Practice physician Janet Gourley, M.D. says she’s currently taking a break from clinical work to help her to stay balanced and one step ahead of what’s coming down the line.
“Here’s what I’ve been doing to stay on the winning side,” says Gourley, “One: scheduling at least one ‘breather’ appointment a day where I can catch up on paperwork, etc., so I don’t feel like I’m always behind. Two: my new motto is, ‘Say yes to health,’ which means I say no a lot more than I used to.
“Three: after a very serious illness that resulted from not doing the above, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to continue serving my fellow man I’d better take care of myself first or there would be nothing left, literally, of me. So far, it’s working!”
Create balance despite a busy schedule
Working as a physician in a high-pressure job, it may be hard to prioritize your personal needs ahead of work needs, despite the advantages to you in the long run in better health.
“Saying ‘no’ to requests can sometimes leave physicians feeling like they’re coming up short,” says Sean Ebner, President of Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company. “But saying ‘no’ is a strategy that can have a very profound impact for you because it frees up time in your busy schedule, allowing you to reallocate it to activities that give you greater work-life balance.”
Activities such as physical exercise, shopping, preparing meals, and taking advantage of stress-reducing practices like meditation and yoga can go a long way toward helping you feel more balanced and healthy.
Are you feeling stressed out or overworked these days? Is it affecting your performance? If so, a break from clinical demands could be just what the doctor ordered. It may be time to consider a change.