Physician Burnout - Who Will Save Us

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician burnout solution is physician leadership optPhysician Burnout - Who will Save Us?

In this article you will learn why Physician Burnout is a Physician Leadership Issue and what to do when you realize no one is coming to rescue you.


In articles and comments all over the internet, physicians do the same thing - blame, justify and complain about the work stresses we are under.

It is a futile show of frustration despite the fact that our concerns are legitimate.

On average 1 in 3 physicians are suffering from symptomatic burnout on any give office day. New levels of work stress seem to pile on each week. You can feel the longing to be rescued.

It is as if we are locked high in the castle tower, at the mercy of our evil captors - EMR, ICD-10 and Obamacare. Surely the king of everything that is right has dispatched a brave night to free us.

We shake our fists and ask "who is going to do something about this?" We dream of being rescued from these days of drudgery. This is not what we thought our practice would be like back in training.

All of these concerns are true and valid. AND understand one thing ...

Complaining and dreaming of a rescue is Playing the Victim - Pure and Simple

There is no brave knight coming to save you or anyone else

This only distracts you from Saving Yourself

Let me set a framework for addressing burnout effectively - the straightest path to meaningful change in your work day and your organization.

In the end you will see that Burnout is a Physician Leadership issue.

FIRST: We must recognize that burnout and work life balance are examples of DILEMMAs. They are NOT PROBLEMS.

Here’s what I mean

Problem + Solution = NO Problem
The solution makes the problem go away.

Burnout is NOT a Problem
There is no solution that will make it go away
Physician Burnout is a classic Dilemma 

Preventing Physician Burnout and creating Work Life Balance are life long balancing acts. Burnout is a continuous risk you must approach strategically and longitudinally. It is a dilemma to be planned for and mitigated against in a constant state of vigilance and action.

There is no simple solution
AND ... there is no one coming to save us.

Often physicians will focus their ire about work stresses on your administration. We rant about how "THEY" have done this to us and when are "THEY" going to understand our perspective and change things.

As if your administration is the shining knight that will come to your rescue. One day they will have an epiphany - the bright light of realization - and we will be freed from our drudgery and allowed to "just see patients" at last. Not gonna happen.

Time to give up on our magical thinking and realize ...

physician burnout solution is physician leadership Burnout is a challenge Physicians Must Address. It is NOT a problem for the administration.

The non-physician administration of your group can never understand your dilemma and they simply don't care.

They are incapable of understanding what it is like to go through a minimum of 7 years of medical education. They don’t  know what it is like to treat sick, hurt, scared and dying people, sitting knee to knee with them and their families every day.

An occasional non-physician administrator will be empathetic and care about the doctors … and they are not capable of full comprehension of this issue.

You cannot sit back and wait for the administration to “get it”. They won’t.

In most cases, administrators are burned out on trying to help doctors with burnout. They see us as a herd of yowling cats and are left to dealing with the disruptive behavior of the most burned out of your colleagues. Most have given up on the whole concept of " physician leadership " and that doctors will ever be capable of playing a meaningful role in the business of the organization.

The only person who can protect you is the same one who looks back at you from the bathroom mirror every day.

Only physicians can adequately address physician burnout.
It is OUR JOB.

It is our job as doctors to overcome the programming of our education and care for ourselves and our colleagues.

It is our job as physicians to teach the non-physicians that this caring has multiple bottom line benefits to the finances of the organization

physician leadership dirty little secret

Organizations address burnout effectively will have a two pronged competitive advantage in the years ahead

When you get good at addressing the physician burnout dilemma
- Lowering physician stress levels
- Creating a more physician and staff friendly work flow
- Building a culture of caring and mutual support – “my partners have my back”
- Providing strong and united physician leadership to the decision making bodies in your organization 

1) You will become the provider of choice in your market.
Patients will notice the difference in the care they receive from healthy, engaged physicians and staff. Your group will naturally provide higher quality care and higher levels of patient satisfaction - which will combine to produce higher income. The higher levels of trust and engagement on your staff will make implementing change easier and create a more nimble organization.

2) You will become the employer of choice in your market.
You will attract the highest quality physicians when they notice the quality of the work environment and the meaningful role physicians play in the design of patient flow. 

The first step ...

physician burnout elephant in the room physician leadership optNAME THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. "Out" Physician Burnout.  Begin to have an open conversation about the issues of stress and burnout in your front line workplaces … your offices and hospitals. 

As long as burnout remains “that which shall not be named” and driven so far underground that even suicides fail to inspire C-Level introspection … you have not even started on the path towards addressing this hidden killer.

The first step in any change is calling things by their right name. We have to talk about burnout because that is what is here.

Don’t talk about physician wellness because that's what is NOT present … it is what we aspire to … it is not the reality in the moment.

As soon as you begin to acknowledge our work is stressful. Acknowledge there are stresses on the front line clinical staff that do not exist for the administrative side. Acknowledge that burnout is real and present danger right now. And begin to have conversations about stress, work flow, life balance ... your culture will start to shift. Your organization will have begun to take off the blinders around physician burnout and the process of effectively addressing this dilemma can commence. 

Let’s name the Physician Burnout beast and get started on the structures to stop it from taking you and your people down

The Upside to You and Your Organization is Massive
The Time to Get Started is NOW !


Burnout Prevention Resources
... field tested and doctor approved... 

1) Contact me directly for FREE support to begin addressing physician burnout in your organization or help with de-stressing your own practice.

2) Individual Physicians: Use the Venn of Happiness Process here to begin changing your personal practice.

3) Physician Leaders: Use the Physician Engagement Formula to start quickly changing the culture in your organization.

4) For LIVE Burnout Proof Training for your people click this link



What are you doing in your organization to prevent physician burnout and how is it working? 


Tags: physician burnout prevention, Dike Drummond MD, Physician Burnout, physician stress, Physician Leadership