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Physician Burnout

A Public Health Crisis: Physician Burnout

Depression. Exhaustion. Dissatisfaction. An overall sense of failure… these are just some of the symptoms that can leave physicians feeling empty and unable to heal their client base.

When push comes to shove, all of this fatigue and emotion affects the care that is being delivered. It can lead to misdiagnosis, malpractice lawsuits, medical errors, and more. All of these can seriously affect the patient and the provider’s ability to practice long term.

Let’s focus on you… the provider. Physician burnout takes a toll on your mental health. If it goes unaddressed, physician burnout leaves you feeling unable, ill-equipped, or like a failure as a provider all together.

Understanding Physician Burnout

Physician burnout, as defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is “a long-term stress reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of sense of personal accomplishment.”

The feeling of being “burned out” in healthcare can stem from the demanding pace, packed work days, or even the emotional demands of the job itself. Advisory Board breaks down Medscape’s 2019 National Physicians Burnout & Depression Report to provide us with some of the biggest contributors to why providers today are feeling exhausted in their medical practice. 59% of the respondents stated they felt burnout due to too many bureaucratic tasks. The other highest reported reasons for physician burnout can be found in the chart pictured below.

Biggest contributors to burnout

Source: Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019

As you can see, the list of contributors to physician burnout is extensive and touches on various sectors within the healthcare sphere.

Recognizing Physician Burnout

Are you feeling burnt or noticing it in other clinicians?

Recognizing the signs of fatigue and overwhelming stress in yourself and those around you is the first step towards receiving help. If a physician arounds you begins to talk increasingly negative about patients, colleagues, or themselves, this may be a sign that they are losing faith in their own ability to make a difference. Listen closely to the words you say and to what those around you are speaking.

The ACOI presents us with this case study to put physician burnout into perspective…

Man looking burned out

Internal Medicine Residency Burnout

Sam is in his 2nd year as an Internal Medicine Resident at Carle Health Systems. He is 28 years old, he is married, and he and his wife are expecting the arrival of their first child. Among his colleagues he is known to be a hardworking medical student who spends an exorbitant amount of time at the hospital due to his interest in critical care.


One day, Sam gets into an argument that quickly becomes heated with a 3rd year surgical resident in regards to a critical care case. The ChM of Surgery is called in to investigate the concern. In this particular critical care case, a 26 year old woman with complicated Crohn’s disease passed away due to sepsis. This patient had been in Carle’s ICU for two weeks after experiencing surgery for a resection from an obstruction.

After all of this has happened, Carle’s Chief Internal Medicine doctors finds out that Sam has not been participating in learning opportunities. Other residents have noticed that he is becoming increasingly aggressive with other medical students and the nursing staff finds him inappropriate. His wife has also made remarks that Sam has a sullen mood while at home and he doesn’t seem to “there” even when he is. Sam denies that there are any problems. When pressed by the Chief of IM, Sam states that he feels wore out, that he has lost his sense of direction, and that he has accomplished little. Sam’s actions and attitude towards his colleagues were likely due to him feeling burned out and needing help.

Internal medicine doctors aren’t the only ones experiencing physician burnout. Advisory Board breaks down physician burnout by specialty in the graph below.

Physician burnout by specialty

Source: Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019

Managing Physician Burnout

Managing physician burnout is crucial for you, the clinicians you practice with, and the patients that you heal. There are many different ways for you to manage physician burnout and its dependent on the clinician, and what level changes need to be made. To manage physician burnout at the physician level, the following can be addressed…

Addressing your own happiness

  • Work life balance
  • Seeking mental health
  • Deciding of health is the career you want to stay in
  • Spend more time on activities you enjoy

Talking to your EHR vendor (if software is a pain point)

  • Seek out optimization
  • Ask for more training

If problems for you or other providers exist at the organizational level, it may be time to address the following…

Disagreements with leadership

  • Promote transparency
  • Have open discussions with leadership

Appropriate job role assignments

  • Ensure staff understand their roles
  • Assign non-clerical work to non-clerical staff
  • Set clear expectations of staff

Optimize EHR use

  • Enable tools to help providers offload tasks
  • Invest in efficient solutions
  • Seek out training

These are just SOME of the ways that physician burnout can be managed at your practice.
Some of it will require money, but a lot of it will require introspection.

Adopting EHR Tools to Alleviate Physician Burnout

Though EHRs have been sighted as being a cause of physician burnout, they don’t have to be. With Henry Schein MicroMD, we have the tools and experts you need to optimize and understand your software. Optimizing your use of the system will help you move more fluidly throughout it, and reduce the amount of time you are spending in front of your screen documenting.

We also offer a variety of solutions that can help you improve efficiency and reduce manual work…

Voice recognition software
Clinical decision support
Automated appointment reminders

Ready to see how MicroMD solutions can help you improve efficiency and optimization?

MicroMD PM

Cloud and on premise Practice Management

MicroMD PM simplifies patient management and revenue cycle from scheduling, registration, billing, claims management and collections.


MicroMD e-Prescribing

Cloud and on premise Electronic Prescribing

Electronically prescribe your patient’s
prescriptions safely and accurately.



Cloud and on premise Electronic Medical Records

Full-featured, customizable ONC Certified EMR that accommodates a variety of specialties. Improve workflow, enhance care delivery and boost productivity.

Provider Burnout Resources


Recognizing & Managing Physician Burnout


Physician Burnout: Supporting Clinicians During a Viral Outbreak


How to Mitigate & Prevent Physician Burnout


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