Powerlessness frustrates first-line physicians the most. Nearly half of all doctors suffer from burnout, and it’s now at a critical level. Many patients want to think of their doctor as someone who watches their back.
Medicine is a calling rather than a career. Does your doctor see you, the patient, as part of his or her team or as an object on a conveyor belt of bodies to be examined? High rates of exhaustion and depersonalization are driving many to consider leaving practice, which would exacerbate doctor shortages and affect patient care, experts say.
One program that may help is, The AMA’s Healthier Life Steps: A Physician’s Guide to Personal Health. See the sites, A Physician’s Guide to Personal Health Program and its companion piece, the toolkit, Practical Steps for Resilience. These works are geared at helping physicians recognize and cope with burnout, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. See the PDF article, AMA Healthier Life Steps®: A Physician’s Guide to Personal Health.
The rising tide of aging boomers demanding health care versus physician and caregiver burnout
The rising demand for healthcare from aging baby boomers and a projected 30 million newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act, are putting the pressure on doctors and medical students. Additionally, not many doctors are eager to enter geriatric medicine and treat the elderly in the last years of life as are willing to treat people at the start of life, for example, pediatrics specialists. Perhaps, this reminds doctors of their own mortality (and even signals dietary changes).
Who does your doctor go to for help or even have the time? See, Stressed physicians reluctant to seek support. High rates of exhaustion and depersonalization are driving many to consider leaving practice, which would exacerbate doctor shortages and affect patient care, experts say. See, What are the signs of burnout in doctors?
Where do Sacramento doctors go for help? Back east, the Pennsylvania Physicians’ Health Program works one-on-one to guide physicians in getting the help they need — such as additional clinical training and treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. Sometimes local physicians will turn to holistic medicine for help. Others turn to their spouse or parents. And some talk to local psychotherapists or begin the study, at last, of restorative and functional medicine as a solution.
Those in holistic health may also turn to exercises from other cultures such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong for ‘healing’ and relaxation, or study Traditional Chinese medicine. And still more look into nutrition and which exercises help relieve stress without injuring the joints. More family physicians are producing Tai Chi exercise DVDs for the public. And some turn to metabolic nutrition studies.
You may want to listen to the audio about a 2012 study that reported there’s a 50-50 chance that your doctor is under too much pressure at work, says a new survey from the Mayo Clinic. Listen to the audio, Doctor Burnout Rate Approaches 50% [Audio]. A 2012 survey of 7,288 physicians found that 45.8% have experienced symptoms of burnout, defined as high levels of emotional exhaustion or depersonalization.
You visit a doctor for primary and preventive care most of the time, but you may find an issue with physician shortages. Are doctors too isolated from people in other occupations and from their patients? The solution could be an expansion of team-based care. Check out the article, Nearly half of physicians struggle with burnout – amednews.com. Can patients blame the economy? The prevalence of burnout among physicians appears to be higher than in the past. At the same time, the. U.S. birth rate this year — 2012 is lowest since 1920.
A 2012 study shows U.S. doctors have a burnout rate of 38 percent versus 28 percent for the general population, according to the article, “Study Says Doctors More Burned Out Than Others.” And in another 2012 article, “Doctor burnout: Nearly half of physicians report symptoms,” USA Today reports that nearly 1 in 2 (45.8%) of the nation’s doctors already suffer a symptom of burnout.
The question is why are the rates higher than expected? Some doctors turn to alcohol or drugs for their own stress. See the article, Warning signs of physician alcohol impairment. The highest rates of burnout were reported among primary care physicians, including family physicians, general internists and emergency room doctors. Most dermatologists, on the other hand, don’t feel burned out, at least not as quickly as family doctors may experience the stress of an unbalanced work and rest life.
According to the article, “Doctor Burnout: How Common Is It?,” doctors working in dermatology, pathology, preventive medicine and pediatrics had lower burnout rates than those working in the “front line of care access” — neurology, family medicine, emergency medicine and general internal medicine.”
Due to the stresses of medical practice, many physicians experience burnout at higher rates than the general population. They work an average of 10 hours more per week and are nearly twice as likely to be dissatisfied with their work-life balance, according to an Archives of Internal Medicine study published online Aug. 20, 2012.
In Sacramento, the health care system already is under pressure. Locally and nationally, more doctors may be choosing to retire early or shift away from clinical practice. You can check out the books of many physicians who have walked away from conventional medicine and turned to holistic medicine, restorative medicine, functional medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (usually exercises), Ayurvedic medicine (traditional folkloric medicine from India), integrative medicine that combines nutrition and exercise with conventional medicine, and nutrition as medicine.
Caregivers also experience burnout
Caregivers, some with little formal education other than being the spouse of someone who needs constant care, such as the spouses of bed-ridden patients or patients with dementia living at home also experience burnout, sometimes to the point of giving up the caregiving, walking out on the bedridden, paralyzed, or mentally incompetent spouse, or even abusing the patient who may be an elderly relative or in-law.
Respite programs are needed for those caring for relatives at home because they can’t afford other people to come into the home to care for relatives and have no long-term insurance because they don’t have the income to pay the premiums. See, The Truth About Caregiver Burnout, From Dr. Gail … – Huffington Post
Workers in other fields often visit doctors to complain about their own burnout issues
Office workers, professional athletes, TV writers, waiters, police officers — you name it — they might all claim to be burned out on occasion, according to the August 29, 2012 article, “Study: Doctor burnout rates ‘alarming’ | HLNtv.com.” The many rigors and stresses of medical practice mean that physicians experience burnout at higher rates than the general population, notes the article, Doctor burnout: Nearly half of physicians report symptoms..
Medical students study most of the night for frequent exams, compete with others to even get into medical school or pass the national board exams, and on the job frequently are called at all hours of the night during residencies.
As students in a profession that’s highly competitive when it comes to getting into medical school, doctors are taught to behave in front of patients as if they are in control and not to show weakness. When a doctor is burned out, it’s hard to ask for help.
Some doctors can relate to a lot of their patients workaholism. Some identify with and some laugh out a patient’s need for more vacations, exercise, spiritual practices and emphasis on supportive relationships, especially when the patient has lost his or her job, lives in a car or suddenly becomes homeless. For most doctors and medical students, burnout may have become the norm. And the loss of connection between patient and doctor comes at a price.
Do doctors treat many patients as objects because of time-squeeze fever?
The patient feels that the doctor thinks of the patient as an object or number and is just too burned out to even consider nutrition-based roots of health issues that doctors see as symptoms to be treated solely with prescriptions for high-priced drugs instead of dietary changes or personalized exercise to fit a patient’s needs. Doctors are under the pressure of having to work with more patients under stressful conditions of reduced time or “time-squeeze” behavior.
Most doctors aren’t trained in combining nutrition with physical therapy, and most patients may not be able to afford to consult physical therapists for exercise instruction and nutritionists for personalized diets tailored to their genes, body chemistry, shape, blood viscosity test results, and metabolism.
When your doctor tells you about burnout
What happens when you talk to your doctor about burnout or stress, and the doctor tells you that he or she is feeling the same as you, an unrelenting decline in the sense of fulfillment derived from work. When your doctor tell she he or she feels frustrated with the high price of healthcare and the ‘bureaucratization’ of medicine?
When you talk to your doctor about what lifestyle and dietary changes you need to make, what do you do when your doctor tells you he or she resents spending “more time filling out forms than caring for patients?” A rising number of people go to their doctors for help with stress only to hear that their doctor is burned out and perhaps “hitting the wall.”
Work and life satisfaction is related to health
You can check out the statistics on an article and table, “Burnout and Satisfaction with Work-Life Balance Among U.S. Physicians Relative to the General U.S. Population,” Archives of Internal Medicine, published online Aug. 20, 2012. Is your doctor taking steps to prevent burnout? If there’s a doctor in your family, is the individual educated in nutrition-based medicine coupled with work-life balance concepts? The balance needs to set in early in the training of medical students and residents.
Writing prescriptions is what many are trained to do rather than look at diet-based or sedentary-life centric causes. Instead of symptoms, the root of the issue needs to be included when educating practicing physicians about stress management and how the standard cultural foods eaten by patients affects health. Check out the article, What are the signs of burnout in doctors?
Doctors are eating too much junk food followed by prescription medicines that may worsen other problems down the line
Why do so many depressed doctors kill themselves with junk food, stress, or overwork? Researchers who explore the health of doctors may tout titles such as The occupation with the highest suicide rate | Psychology Today. Ironically, with medical doctors in high demand for employment, they have extremely high suicide rates as do dentists compared to average high-school graduates who have routine jobs.
When doctors made house calls in the early 1950s, they had very low suicide rates. Researchers are asking whether the connection to patients has changed, perhaps resulting in more depression and alienation from patients for doctors who are routinely overbooked with patients. Check out the MP3 audio file podcast online, “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie.”
For many years now, physicians have had the highest suicide rate compared to people in any other line of work. One website, The Straight Dope includes a quote from Steven Stack that says, “Dentists’ odds of suicide “are 6.64 times greater than the rest of the working age population. Many physicians work more than 80 hours a week, smoke heavily, or eat foods that increase belly fat while telling their patients to follow specific diets. Is suicide among doctors genetic?
Should more doctors bring back house calls in rural areas or can telemedicine take the place of face-to-face conversation?
Do physicians suffer more from stress, depression, and lack of hope than people other occupations? Or is their high suicide rate due to not having had nutrition courses in medical school? New research focuses on the happiness levels of physicians and asks why doctors have such a profound suicide rate as do dentists.
Telemedicine, especially in rural areas has replaced the doctor making housecalls in his or her neighborhood of 60 years ago. Contact with patients usually is about 15 minutes or less during a day where physicians or dentists may see dozens of patients.
How happy are physicians and dentists who upon graduation and licensing are told that they probably will have some of the most secure jobs compared to engineers, veterinarians, or pharmacists? And why are so many doctors who commit suicide described by their patients as either being negative, saying “I’ve seen worse,” instead of “those look good,” when examining a patient, or hiding their depression behind smiles?
Patients expect a doctor with compassion and positive attitudes
Is this surprising? See how the media covers this topic when it comes to happiness in lifestyle, education, and career, let alone job security. See the article, When Doctors Kill Themselves – Newsweek, Apr 19, 2008. The unsettling truth is that doctors have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. Patients are asky why?
In 1950, physicians made house calls and usually were smiling a lot. They seemed to enjoy their job, or at least that’s how the media covered the culture of lifestyle when your parents were physicians. Women as physicians may be experienced less recognition in their careers which can lead to depression after the same amount of effort as men to complete their medical studies.
Female physicians constitute about half of all physician suicides
Actually in the previous generation of physicians, more male physicians in 1972 committed suicide than in 1995. In the United States, men commit suicide at nearly 4 times the rate of women, but women constitute about half of all physician suicides. But if you go back to the days of house calls, the family physician had a more connected relationship, usually life-long to families in a neighborhood or area. The same doctor might have visited a family to deliver a baby at home at the turn of the century and then make house calls until the child became an adult and moved on.
Are doctors getting happier or better off at the same time it’s getting harder to find the right job, even in the health care occupations? According to a Newsweek article April 19, 2008, “Doctors Who Kill Themselves,” every year, between 300 and 400 doctors take their own lives—roughly one a day. No other profession has a higher suicide rate.
For a family whose income always had been close to minimum wage, the fantasy in the media would be that doctors would always be able to find a job. But parents of Baby Boomers who had majored in the liberal arts for example, English or art history would be the individuals most likely to find a ‘secure’ job to last at least a 40-year career span followed by a secure retirement, and a paid-off mortgage.
The suicide rate of U.S. physicians is one per day
Actually, according to the media, dentists think they have the highest suicide rate. See The Straight Dope: Do dentists have the highest suicide rate? According to the media, the suicide rate of U.S. physicians is one per day. Male physicians have suicide rates 1.4 times that of the general population, according to the site, Clinical Cases and Images: CasesBlog: High-risk profession.
You can listen to the Dennis Prager show online at Town Hall Radio. Or you can listen on Sacramento radio, at KTKZ, 1380 AM. Check out a former show involving an issue set in Sacramento, at: The stripper and the Christian school – The Dennis Prager Show website. This past show focused on the Capital Christian School in Sacramento, CA when it had been faced with a real dilemma: Should it expel a 5-year-old girl whose mother is a stripper?
Back on July 30, 2010 on the Dennis Prager show heard in Sacramento radio station 1380 AM on that morning, the guest speaker on happiness was Dr. Stephen Marmer, MD, a Brentwood psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at UCLA Medical School. An important point of the show on happiness also focused on who’s not a narcissist.
Someone who watches your back
The doctor defined a person who’s not a narcissist as someone watches your back, who protects you, even at the cost stepping back on himself. For example, does another person ever protect you in public by covering your back? Or does the person put you down to lift himself/herself up?
That’s one way the media covers the topic of happiness. An interesting point that Dennis Prager made was the absence of wisdom in Baby Boomers made in a former show. Prager explained what he meant. There was no absence of technical knowledge in the Boomer generation. He explained what he meant by wisdom–the understanding of life experience and what life teaches one. This is different from technical knowledge, such as the computer revolution.
As an example, Prager mentioned how Boomers might have taught their parents didn’t know much, especially if the Boomer was the first generation to attend college and the Boomer parent had little or no formal education, perhaps was an immigrant, or worked hard at menial labor to send children to college. The parent had the moral wisdom based on life experience, on raising a family, on understanding commitment and loyalty, putting bread on the table, and holding the family together in the midst of storms.
The Boomer had the technical training or the university education, but little life experience. If you listen to how the media covers the topic of happiness, you can compare the various radio talk show personalities. To get more answers from others on happiness, you might check out the website, Ask a Psychiatrist Online. There are 17 different psychiatrists online to answer your question.
If you are looking for how media is covering the subject of happiness, check out the website, Happiness. Hear Dr. Kenner’s show, The Rational Basis of Happiness® online and on these radio stations. Times of day and days of week vary from station to station. Enjoy Dr. Kenner’s short podcasts. Today’s Podcast Topic: “What practical books can I read about happiness.” Also read the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness.
In Sacramento, parents of Baby Boomers often see one another at the various senior centers. Are the parents of Baby Boomers, usually in their early to mid-seventies and better, happier than their Boomer children in Sacramento, many of whom are in their mid to late 40s, 50s, and 60s?
The answer usually is yes, if you ask them. As a parent of two Baby Boomers born in the first half and mid 1960s, our generation was able to find jobs that lasted 40 years or more, pay off a house that cost under $25,000 (usually around $11,000 bought in the early 1960s) retire with bills paid off, attend college for under $100 per semester if a state college and about $400 per semester if a private college.
Our first jobs paid $36 a week right out of high school doing clerical work, but we were able to be financially independent and didn’t have to return home to parents in adulthood. We didn’t need too many college loans because there was the $600 a semester scholar incentive award that didn’t have to be paid back, in some towns.
As the parent of Baby Boomers, our life had it so much better than the Boomers and their kids, who can’t find jobs right out of high school that could enable them to be financially independent. Our high schools prepared us for office jobs that paid enough to let us buy our first homes, marry at 18, and still work our way through college for six years while working full time as stenographers.
The grand kids and great grand kids may have the courage to take more difficult hard science courses where we took the liberal arts degrees to round out our high school training in operating business machines. We had repetitive work and used the liberal arts to break free of the data entry routine for the 40-year careers stretch. The grand kids have the biochemistry majors and the research grants.
But the media is constantly covering the topic of happiness, especially to Sacramento listeners and readers. And the subject in the media is the culture of happiness. So who’s the most happy? It’s the person, usually a grandchild now, who got the job most likely to last the longest who poses the least financial risk to his or her employer. The media rarely covers the new medical school graduates and their happiness.
So if you ask the media whether parents of Baby Boomers were happier and had more wisdom than Boomers and their children, what’s the answer? It all depends upon how media covers culture. Then there’s universal culture and niche culture. Basically, in Sacramento, our over age 70 group is happy. You sometimes can tell by the gusto put into serving the healthier types of food.
Note that white, male doctors in 1967-1972 had a slightly higher rate of suicide than in 1984-1995. Did this have anything to do with the Vietnam War compared to the boom in technology and the economy up to 1995?
Percentage of Deaths Due to Suicide
U.S. white male population 25 and older (1970): 1.5
U.S. white male dentists (1968-72): 2.0 (85 of 4,190)
U.S. white male medical doctors (1967-72): 3.0 (544 of 17,979)
U.S. white male population 25 and older (1990): 2.0
U.S. white male medical doctors (1984-95): 2.7 (379 of 13,790)
Burnout and Satisfaction with Work-Life Balance Among U.S. Physicians Relative to the General U.S. Population, Archives of Internal Medicine, published online Aug. 20, 2012.
American Medical Association physician health resources
Federation of State Physician Health Programs
Burnout and Satisfaction with Work-Life Balance Among U.S. Physicians Relative to the General U.S. Population, Archives of Internal Medicine, published online Aug. 20, 2012.