In the United States, there are 33,624 obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs). And in 2016, 51% of those medical professionals experienced physician burnout. They’re not alone, either. Burnout is rising among all physicians and among American workers in general. However, burnout among OB/GYNs is ranked third in all medical professions, following those who practice emergency medicine.
So, what exactly is physician burnout?
Physician burnout can include several symptoms. Most OB/GYNs notice emotional and physical exhaustion that doesn’t disappear with rest. They can also lose compassion for their patients. An OB/GYN may not notice that they have a negative or detached attitude at first. These professionals may also start to question whether what they do even matters.
How does burnout happen?
A gynecologist can get overwhelmed easily, especially with increasing client bases. Constant calls, questions, paperwork, and staffing issues may plague an obstetric office daily. An OB/GYN can end up devoting all of their time to work — and without proper balance, things can easily derail. This uses up all of their energy and patience. It can even disrupt home lives and relationships.
What can stop burnout?
Ironically, healthcare organizations often ignore the fact that physicians are overworked and suffering. In other words, while they’re caring for others, they neglect caring for themselves or prioritizing this need among employees. Physicians must oftentimes take matters into their own hands. Here are some tips to do just that.
- Say “no” more often.
Saying “no” sounds difficult and it will be at first . However, patients will ultimately suffer if physicians don’t make themselves a priority. When asked to take on more than they are able, medical staff will quickly burn out. This can be prevented with more work-life balance. Spending time with family and friends and spending time away from work can release stress and give a physician much needed recovery.
- Try mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a practice that can help physicians become more self-aware. It can include anything from using a mobile app that reminds someone to take a deep breath to a daily meditation or even taking a week-long retreat. Mindfulness is said to help people stay in the moment, which reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Talk about it.
Finding a support system can help prevent burnout. Talking to coworkers, friends, or therapists can release stress or provide much needed emotional support. Exercise, massage, or even a television show can help relieve stress, as well. But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
- Change work practices.
Simple changes in the office can prevent physician burnout. Using things like patient check-in software, electronic document management systems, and other documentation tools can increase efficiency and reduce the amount of work physicians have to do. Even amending work hours can be of great benefit.
Although healthcare burnout may not be completely avoidable, it’s important to recognize self-care isn’t a luxury. In fact, it’s a necessity and should be treated as a vital part of one’s routine. With these tips in mind, gynecologists can safeguard their own well-being and ensure that their patients are receiving the high-quality care they deserve.