Burnout Self-Examination

By Steve Barrett
Friday, November 1, 2019

Burnout is not the same as normal stress or tiredness, notes Dike Drummond, MD, CEO and founder of thehappymd.com.

A relatively simple self-evaluation can give physicians an idea about whether they’re facing actual burnout, according to Dr. Drummond. He draws on portions of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which the National Academy of Medicine endorses, to highlight key symptoms.

Emotional exhaustion: The physician is not only drained after work but cannot recover normally despite having time off. Eventually, energy levels start to diminish.

Depersonalization: The physician begins to complain about patients to other providers, assuming an uncaring and detached attitude. Sarcasm and cynicism toward patients creep in.

Reduced sense of accomplishment: The physician develops doubts about whether he or she is making a difference to patients and offering high-caliber care.

“Any level of exhaustion and sarcasm/cynicism/patient blaming that does not respond to time off is of concern,” Dr. Drummond writes. “If you notice these symptoms getting worse over time — regardless of whether or not you feel you are doing good work — heads up. You are on a physician burnout trajectory and will end up at a dead end if things don’t change.”

A 2018 study at the University of California, Riverside found physician burnout rates exceed 54% in the U.S.