(Because sometimes my brain processes information in the form of a radiology report.)
EXAMINATION: Analysis of physician burnout
CLINICAL INDICATION: Increasing use of term physician burnout, particularly via social media, and need to address associated connotations/perceptions
TECHNIQUE: Non-scientific retrospective review of popular published pieces on the topic and comments platforms on these articles
COMPARISON: Innumerable articles on the topic and experiences of professional and personal contacts
FINDINGS: The number of articles about physician burnout have increased significantly over the past few years, along with routine vocalization of said feelings. As with most terms with inherent sex appeal, the term “burnout” may overdramaticize and somewhat belittle the underlying sentiment.
Multiple different physicians are identified, each with unique circumstances, including varying depths of physician debt, practice and compensation structures, demographics, personal lives, subspecialties, and reasons for going into medicine. Many express discontent with recent trends in medicine, whether it be related to declining compensation and/or increasing workload, litigative aspects of medicine, work-life balance, or patient perceptions of physicians.
Despite this, the vast majority of physicians still love and believe in what they do. There is not yet frank collapse or obstruction of the medical system; however, there are moderate degenerative changes which warrant consideration of both local and systemic etiologies. These are all within normal limits of most professional careers, but borderline increased because of unique aspects of the necessity of services provided, humanistic nature of the profession, and length of training required.
IMPRESSION: Overall increase in use of the term physician burnout and in sentiment of discontent, which are nonspecific and mean different things to each physician. Clinical correlation* for root causes should be performed on an individual basis, and appropriate individual and systemic actions should be taken to ameliorate the situation. Close follow-up is indicated. Otherwise, the eventual downfall of the medical profession as we know it is not excluded.
* The use of vague terminology and recommendations for clinical correlation and appropriate action are used facetiously and should not be taken as endorsement or condoning the gratuitous use of such phrases in a clinical radiology report.
Nisha Mehta is a radiologist and founder, Deserved Splurges.
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