• Sara & Colin Taylor

The Burnout Crisis Continues

A Boston Globe article titled Physician Burnout Now Essentially a Public Health Crisis gained a lot of attention this week with this opening paragraph - "Physician burnout has reached alarming levels and now amounts to a public health crisis that threatens to undermine the doctor-patient relationship and the delivery of health care nationwide, according to a report from Massachusetts doctors to be released Thursday."

So two things - first, tell us something we don't all already know; second, obviously the amount of awareness around this issue isn't altering the landscape. Over half of physicians still report experiencing burnout at some point.

They cite some well known reasons for the burnout crisis such as the much dreaded acronym, EMR (Electronic Medical Record), and the increase in regulatory driven headaches. Computers have unquestionably become the unwelcome third wheel in physician exam rooms in our current medical era. 

Recently, an article written by a retired male family physician titled Erosion of Comprehensive Care and Professionalism appeared in the Canadian Family Physician magazine. We became aware of this article following a tweet by a practising female family physician. We fully believe in freedom of speech, but it might be misplaced authority for a retired physician of any gender to comment on how the current generation isn't quite 'cutting it'. A patriarchal tone, and saying things like, "Family physicians should not be permitted to cherry pick patients (i.e. accept only the healthy)", is not supporting our current, hard working generation of physicians. Comparing medicine today is like comparing the first cell phone that needed its own backpack to the sleek iPhone X of today - not comparable.

Back to the Boston Globe article, it ends with - "The report concludes with a warning: 'If left unaddressed, the worsening crisis threatens to undermine the very provision of care, as well as eroding the mental health of physicians across the country.'"

Sobering but true. The very technological advancements that are desirable in medical care are also taking meaning and purpose out of the practice of medicine - the very things that help mitigate burnout. It's not physicians that are eroding comprehensive care and professionalism as the retired family physician wrote, in fact it's Computerization, Complexity, and Clerical work, among many other system-driven issues. (If you read the article, you'll appreciate the use of 3 C's compared to his 3 A's...wink wink)

One thing that definitely won't solve the burnout crisis is criticizing how others choose to practice medicine. 

“At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.” ~ Brené Brown, Dare to Lead 


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