Physician Burnout - Who Will Save Us

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

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

Let's talk about what to do when you finally realize you are on your own, that no one and nothing is coming to rescue you.


In most burnout blog posts and comments on the internet, physicians do the same thing - blame, justify and complain about the work stresses we are under.

  • Our struggles and frustrations are real
  • Our concerns are 100% legitimate
  • And yet pointing fingers and playing the victim will only keep you stuck DEEP in Einstein's Insanity Trap

Learn More:

235 Proven Tools for Your Burnout Prevention Strategy

The latest survey shows over 60% of doctors suffering from symptomatic burnout on any given office day. New levels of work stress seem to pile on each week. We all daydream of a lifeline, a rescue, a refuge, a break.

It is as if we are locked high in the castle tower, at the mercy of our evil captors - EMR, MOC, Preauths, RVU production quotas, the Call Center is a mess, and my Inbox is overflowing like a plugged toilet. Surely someone has dispatched a knight in shining armor to free us from this torment.

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 one and nothing coming to save you

This yearning 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.

So you can release the urge to blame, justify and complain,
hear that little voice calling you to take back your practice,
and know how to get started. 



The word PROBLEM comes from mathematics. It has a specific meaning. Burnout does not fit the definition of the word PROBLEM. 

Here's what I mean.

Problems, by definition, have a Solution, right? And what happens when you apply a Solution to a Problem. The problem goes away. 

Problem + Solution = NO Problem


Do you think there is a one-step fix for burnout hiding somewhere? A true magic bullet, a SOLUTION?

So let's stop calling Burnout a PROBLEM
And give up on finding a SOLUTION
Ban those words from our vocabulary when talking about Physician Burnout 

Burnout is NOT a Problem
There is no Solution that will make it go away
Physician Burnout is a classic DILEMMA - a never-ending Balancing Act


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 mitigated against in a constant state of vigilance and action.

There is no simple SOLUTION
You must deploy a 3 - 5 step STRATEGY
AND ... there is no one coming to save you

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 can be convinced to don the shining armor and be the one who comes 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

We are the Canary in the Coal Mine

Burnout is a constant threat each physician must recognize and address on a personal level first.

When you blame, justify or complain and hope that will persuade your administrators/managers to make it all right, that magical thinking is a TRAP.

The non-physician administration of your group can never understand your Dilemma and they simply don't care. They have their own whirlwind of stresses and overwhelm.

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 can never fully comprehend what it is like to be a physician.

You cannot sit back and wait for the administration to “get it”. They might, and there is no guarantee.

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.

YOU must build your personal burnout prevention strategy first.

Do not hesitate. Save yourself, your family, your practice and your career.

  • Sometimes all four are at stake.

  • Sometimes your strategy will help you find new meaning and satisfaction in your practice and allow you to step away from a career of "quiet desperation".

  • If you find it impossible to build your strategy in this job and this workplace: I strongly encourage you to look for a better employer and greener pastures - they do exist and this is a "seller's market" for physicians.

The first steps ...

physician burnout elephant in the room physician leadership opt1) NAME THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. "Out" Physician Burnout.

If you are exhausted, cynical and sarcastic about your patients, wondering "what's the use" of all this, regretting your decision to go into medicine, resigned to a daily grind of getting all the work done, wondering how your choice to go to Med School turned out like this ???

That is burnout.

2) Start building your Personal Burnout Prevention Strategy. Take matters into your own hands.

Here are two ways to get started and an escape hatch if you need one: 

Do not wait for a Rescue
Do not blame, justify, complain and then step back into Einstein's Insanity Trap 

Take Action Now to defend yourself, your family, your practice and your career from the ravages of physician burnout.





  • What are you doing to protect yourself from burnout now?

  • Is "Burnout" a word you can use in your current workplace?

  • What is the #1 thing you would change to lower your stress at work?



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