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Let's Bring Joy Back to Medicine

Posted By Michael F. Hamant, Wednesday, January 31, 2018
This month, the Medscape 2018 Physician Lifestyle Report was released, highlighting aspects of physician burnout and depression. The report had over 15,000 U.S. physicians from 29 specialties weigh in on their happiness at and outside of work, personality traits, and lifestyle.
An astonishing 42% of physician respondents reported feeling burned out.
We continue to see high rates of burnout with intensivists, neurologists, family medicine, and OB-GYN. OB-GYN and family medicine were also among the highest rates reporting both burnout and depression. Factors contributing to depression? “Job” was the highest cited contributor to those experiencing depression. Employment models seemed to make no difference – 42% of both employed and self-employed reported feeling burned out. 
The culprits
Not surprisingly, the highest marked contributor to burnout was charting and paperwork (selected by 56% of respondents). Other top contributors included spending too many hours at work, and lack of respect from administrators/employers, colleagues or staff.
The solutions
When asked what would reduce burnout, the top three suggestions were: increased compensation; a more manageable schedule; and decreased government regulations. While workplace programs are available to many physicians employed in larger institutions, office-based solo practices’ workplace programs had the highest rate of actual use.
What we are actually doing to cope offers its own insights. We are exercising, talking with close family/friends, sleeping – and sometimes isolating ourselves.


What about our colleagues who are not experiencing burnout? What are they doing? Well, they’re exercising, for one, and they cite the following important factors:
  • having autonomy or flexibility,
  • maintaining a sense of accomplishment or joy,
  • managing expectations and having a positive outlook,
  • liking their patients,
  • having support systems with relationships,
  • working in a good environment,
  • working part-time,
  • feeling they have work-life balance.
Before we all declare ourselves part-time physicians, I want to offer an alternative. Let’s bring joy back to medicine – let’s engage with each other and access a network of colleagues who understand the unique demands – and rewards – of practicing medicine.
ArMA’s 4th Annual Physician Leadership Conference on March 24, 2018 intends to explore more about the solutions to physician burnout and enhancing physician well-being. My colleague and ArMA’s immediate past president, Dr. Gretchen Alexander, is dedicated to planning an event that will provide tools and conversation to help our physician community see value and potential for well-being through leadership. Registration is now open – click here to learn more and sign up today!


I have been a member of ArMA for nearly two decades. As a small practice physician, I firmly believe that organized medicine continues to be a natural fit for developing the community and capacity to counter physician isolation and help physicians feel more empowered. 


On this premise, ArMA has established online community forums for various stages in professional careers and practice types.  Click here to sign in today and locate the practice forum community of interest to you! (In the right hand column of the Forums page, click on "sign in" using your username and password. Your default username is your ArMA member ID, and your pre-set password will be Password1). Please join us!


Share your thoughts in the comments below. How do you cope with burnout? What kinds of solutions can physicians and health care institutions pursue right now to ensure physician well-being?


Michael Hamant, MD

ArMA President


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Jane M. Orient says...
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2018
Let's call it Toxic Workplace Syndrome instead of physician burnout. Here's an article by Michael J. A. Robb, M.D., of Phoenix, an otoneurologist, who has had a joyful third-party-free practice since the end of his fellowship.
He is happy to advise students and physicians on this option.
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