Tackling Burnout in Employed Physicians


Looking for greater flexibility, influence, and self-care opportunities within your organization can help keep burnout at bay.

Fam Pract Manag. 2016 Jul-Aug;23(4):7-8.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Burnout, the significant mental and physical exhaustion brought on by a stressful work environment, has become a growing problem in the medical world.

With burnout rates among physicians exceeding 40 percent, physicians need tools to combat the personal and professional dysfunction that hurts themselves, their loved ones, their coworkers, and their patients.1 Physicians who are overextended and unable to work at peak performance weaken patient satisfaction and quality of care. Medical errors and liability increase. High rates of burnout are associated with greater physician and staff turnover rates, increased physician drug or alcohol use, and even physician suicide.1

Employed physicians face additional challenges as they often lack autonomy and flexibility in setting productivity demands and quality markers. Additionally, they may have little input on staffing decisions, practice protocols, and office resources. About 58 percent of family physicians are employed, and the rate is even greater among younger physicians.2 As more and more physicians become employed, either voluntarily or not, acknowledging burnout and refocusing on physician wellness become paramount. Even in the best health care systems, physicians struggle with burnout; a Mayo Clinic survey found that even when 79 percent of physicians reported feeling very satisfied or satisfied with their organizations, 40 percent of them still exhibited symptoms of burnout.3

The challenge of physician burnout requires ongoing strategies to improve physician self care, perceived empowerment, and recognition of accomplishments at multiple levels within an organization. Here are a few key areas that employed physicians can address:

Know your limits. During medical training, students and residents can develop a “superhero” mentality because the responsibility for patient care and outcomes falls directly on the trainee – a mentality they may then transfer into practice.4 In addition, employed physicians often find it difficult to delegate, especially if they have not hired their staff and fear certain tasks will not be done correctly. Delegation is an important aspect of leadership because there are too many tasks to tackle alone. Take time to learn which of your staff can appropriately take responsibility for items you do not need to do yourself. Communicate your needs for clinical and clerical support, and

About the Author

Dr. McCrory is a family physician with Ellis Primary Care in Schenectady, N.Y., and a faculty member with Ellis Medicine's Family Medicine Residency Program.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


show all references

1. Medscape Physician Lifestyle Survey 2015. http://wb.md/1BVCdqM. Accessed May 6, 2016....

2. Singleton T, Miller P. The physician employment trend: what you need to know. Fam Pract Manag. 2015;22(4):11–15.

3. Shanafelt TD, Gorringe G, Menaker R, et al. Impact of organizational leadership on physician burnout and satisfaction. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(4):432–440.

4. Drummond D. Physician burnout: its origins, symptoms, and five main causes. Fam Pract Manag. 2015;22(5):42–47.


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