Physician burnout is a very troubling issue in the medical industry. Many of today’s doctors and millennial residents suffer from mental health problems that lead to troubled marriages, depression and suicides.

What’s the key?

For Millennial Residents:

The key is identifying the signs and keeping your eyes open for mental health issues.

Millennial Residency Training & Physician Burnout

What is Physician Burnout?

Physician burnout is classified as a psychological syndrome that can be expressed as a response to chronic occupational stressors.

Back in the day, a resident would spend on average between 120-150 hours working in the hospital. Older staff recall how much they learned and how little sleep they got during their residencies in the past.

In 2003, an 80-hour workweek was implemented as a direct result of the death of Libby Zion. Her demise was caused by drug interactions that lead to serotonin syndrome.

Due to stricter hour restrictions, prior generations insist that residents no longer receive the high-level and quality education they once did. They believe that residencies should be longer to sustain an identical quality of training.

However, millennial residents don’t believe the quality of their training today is inferior just because they spend less time at work than past residents. They cite Libby Zion’s death as a prime example.

What do you think?

The State of Physician Burnout in America

All in all, both new residents and senior staff spend years learning and training to become doctors. With such intensified training also comes numerous responsibilities.

Overall, these responsibilities certainly can become too overwhelming for some residents. Your professional tasks can alter into resident burnout if not handled properly.

2019 US Doctor Burnout Statistics

Millennial Residents: Quality Training & the Fear of Physician Burnout

Millennial Residents: Quality Training & the Fear of Physician Burnout. Image Source: Kevin MD

The national average of people that experience depression, in general, is 10%. However, doctors experience depression at a rate of 15%. And the costs of doctor burnout are starting to catch up with Americans.

NPR Reports:

“Doctor burnout is costing the U.S. health care system a lot — roughly $4.6 billion a year, according to a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.”

Medscape’s National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019 is a survey that includes 15,000 doctors working in over 29 different specialties. They were asked questions related to various topics, including happiness, depression and doctor burnout at work.

According to the survey’s findings:

  • Over 40% of all physicians currently suffer from physician burnout
  • About 50% of all of America’s women physicians are burned out

Top 5 Known Causes of Physician Burnout

These are just five of the most common reasons why doctors in the US become burned out professionally:

  1. Way too many administrative/bureaucratic tasks
  2. Devoting too many hours at work
  3. Increased use of the EHR (Electronic Health Record System)
  4. Little respect from hospital staff, colleagues, employees and administrators
  5. Insufficient pay, wages, reimbursement

For millennial residents, the key is to avoid certain habits now, so you don’t get burned out before completing your residency or later as a practicing physician.

Millennial Resident Burnout Warning Signs

Newer residents need to know that burnout carries grim consequences. It’s directly linked to depression and suicide. As a matter of fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for residents in the US.

The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reports:

“Between 2000 and 2014, 324 individuals (220 men, 104 women) died while in residency. The leading cause of death was neoplastic disease, followed by suicide, accidents, and other diseases. For male residents the leading cause was suicide…”

Warning Signs of Millennial Resident Burnout

It’s critical that all residents recognize the signs before resident burnout takes control of your millennial life. Here are some common symptoms that indicate that you may be professionally burned out:

  • Compassion Fatigue – Bothered, frustrated, sarcastic, snarky and cynical with loved ones and patients
  • Emotionally Exhausted – Shown in your lack of or decrease in empathy for patients and connections to close friends, family, spouses or significant others
  • Self-Medicating – Increased use of alcohol, drugs or other harmful substances
  • Lack of Value – You start to feel like with all you do, none of it has any value and you’re not making a difference
Internal medicine residency program at Atlanta's Emory University

Internal medicine residency program at Atlanta’s Emory University. Image Source: Emory Daily Pulse

4 Tactics to Help Millennial Residents Not Become Burned Out

If you start to notice yourself suffering from symptoms of burnout, there are several useful ways to challenge and deal with the problem. Here are four ways for millennials to kick resident burnout in the butt:

1. Surround Yourself with Positive People

If you start to struggle with any form of substance abuse or feel tempted to do so, it is crucial to surround yourself with the right people. Choose people who can help you stay in check and help manage your temptations.

Keep your circle of friends filled with people that are responsible and not judgmental. Your goal is to have them support you when you need it most.

2. Eliminate Stress at Work

Again, stress is a constant and huge factor during any residency or fellowship. However, you can find ways to reduce your stress, even at work.

Try delegating some of your uncompleted duties when possible. Remember, once you complete your first year as a resident, you’re no longer an intern. Now, you have interns that are there to assist you.

3. Practice Self-Care

Make sure to get plenty of rest and eat a healthy and balanced diet. Add a regular exercise routine and set time aside for relaxing in your daily schedule. This will lift the burden of stress you may be experiencing.

4. Implement Mindfulness Training

All things considered, good mental health for physician trainees is a vital element to alleviating doctor burnout now and in the future. It’s substantial to focus on your mind as you finish your residency, fellowship and training.

Take advantage of mindfulness training to help manage and avert burnout by implement coping strategies. Also, take part in social support training programs such as interventions, wellness programs for mental health and mentoring programs.

Physician Burnout: Where Do Millennial Residents Go from Here?

For millennials, identifying the warning signs of doctor burnout is critical to staying mentally healthy as a resident in the US. Be proactive by having a plan to remedy burnout before it’s too late. You don’t have to run yourself ragged to be a good resident.

Throughout the month of September, MedSmarter will be publishing a series of blog posts related to good mental health for residents, medical students and premeds. So, be sure to register for blog updates so you don’t miss a beat.

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In the meantime, if you or someone you know is almost ready for a residency, we can help. Our board-certified physician instructors help medical students put together professional residency application packages.

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