Classified as an official disease by the World Health Organisation, chronic work-related stress, or burnout, remains an under-addressed health concern, especially in the medical industry.
Burnout is characterised by a lack of energy, engagement and efficiency that follow the sustained stress experienced as a result of working in a taxing work environment. Burnout is directly caused by a person’s job and causes someone to harbour negative feelings towards their job. It also negatively affects productivity and safety on the job.
As a doctor, you may have already seen multiple cases where your patients were suffering from burnout. Never forget, however, that doctors themselves are also at risk for burnout.
In fact, doctors are especially prone to burnout because of the demanding nature of their profession.
Physicians are very busy professionals who are responsible for major decisions that can affect not only a company but people’s lives.
That’s a lot of responsibility to carry. You are already susceptible to feeling drained and unable to meet the demands of your roles. But as if that weren’t enough, you also have to carry unpleasant memories of witnessing traumatic events. Add to this a packed daily schedule that leaves no room for taking care of yourself, and it won’t be long before you start feeling the effects of long-term mental stress.
That kind of stress comes at a cost for doctors.
The Medical Impact of Burnout
You’re the expert in this area, not us, but it is worth a reminder. Burnout isn’t a physical condition, it’s psychological. But left untreated, it can lead to a host of physical problems too.
According to one 2017 meta-analysis, long-term mental stress is a predictor for medical problems such as:
– Gastrointestinal issues
– Respiratory issues
– Musculoskeletal pain
– Type 2 diabetes
– Increased incidence of the use of antidepressants and psychotropic medications
Burnout can increase your risk of developing medical complications that can impact your ability to practice and earn income as a doctor.
The Financial Cost of Burnout
Doctors who suffer burnout can have difficulty concentrating on their work or struggle to complete tasks in the right order. This can impact productivity resulting in lost income. The effects of burnout can lead to poor patient experiences and negative reviews or publicity, which can quickly lead to a sharp decline in business.
Currently, mental health issues such as burnout or other work-related stress are reportedly costing workplaces some $10.9 billion per year.
Personally, the financial cost can be significant. Burnout could lead to you losing a lucrative career. It could cost you high earning years and impact your retirement plans. Then there’s the ongoing medical costs.
If you’re a doctor who runs your own practice, stay alert to the signs of burnout among your staff. Burnout can lead to a decrease in productivity and a high employee turnover rate, both of which will cost you money. Employees suffering from burnout may also need to utilise their insurance benefits to treat the associated complications.
The Personal Cost of Burnout
Lastly, it’s important for doctors to understand the toll burnout takes on their personal relationships.
Although burnout is defined as stress directly related to your occupation, the effects can spill over and impact personal aspects of your life.
Burnout generally makes sufferers feel too tired and irritable to interact with others. If you experience burnout, you will likely want to avoid social situations. Fatigue will limit the amount of time you can spend with and caring for your loved ones.
In the worst situations, untreated burnout can lead to expensive relationship breakdowns such as divorce.
Practicing medicine can be an engaging and highly fulfilling profession, even if it is somewhat stressful. But if you suspect that your work has you stressed to the point that you are constantly fatigued and dread the idea of going into the office, then it could be time to take a step back and determine how you can prevent further burnout.
Firstly, talk to someone. Ideally an expert, perhaps another trusted practitioner, or a loved one. Ask for help – that’s often half the battle.
One good way to reduce your anxiety in general while also reducing that need to work, work, work is to make sure your finances are properly managed.
A lack of control over your money can make you feel compelled to work an unhealthy amount of hours or stay in an extremely stressful place of employment. Having a solid financial plan for securing your retirement, saving money and successfully running your practice can give you some peace of mind and help lower your risk for burnout.
Contact Nitschke Nancarrow, specialists in accounting, financial planning, loans and finance, investment and business for medical professionals. We operate in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and throughout Australia. Managing partner Kym Nitschke is available for a free initial discussion about your situation. Call us on (08) 8379 9950 or send me an email.
– Kym Nitschke
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