Burnout is more than growing tired of doing the same thing over and over. It’s a state of emotional exhaustion that results in depersonalized interactions with patients, colleagues, family and friends, according to Arthur DeCross, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, NY.
“Job fatigue is not really what burnout is about, but it’s created largely by work-based obstacles and frustrations,” said Dr. DeCross, who will present preliminary data from the first-ever survey of AGA members exploring their experiences with burnout during Sunday’s AGA Committee Sponsored Symposium Physician Burnout: Recognize and Strive for Wellness.
“If we can learn more about what the dominant causes and consequences of burnout are, we can start to provide resources and programs that are specifically tailored to assisting our membership,” Dr. DeCross said.
One of the key symptoms of burnout is a feeling of a lack of efficacy, according to symposium co-moderator Brijen Shah, MD, associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine and gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. Other signs include frequently arriving at work late and a generally pessimistic attitude toward work, patients, life, friends and family.
“What’s surprising is that a lot of the things that we have become acculturated to as part of the profession are actually signs of burnout,” Dr. Shah said. “It’s being observed at the attending level, and in the extreme it is associated with mental illness.”
Most gastroenterologists are affected by burnout at some point in their careers, added co-moderator Stephanie L. Hansel, MD, MS, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
“Our institute takes notice of burnout and makes serious efforts to help us all deal with it,” she said. “But I’m not sure that is true for colleagues in other institutes. And for gastroenterologists who are in private practice or non-academic centers, there may not be much mention of burnout at all. This symposium will be a good opportunity to hear the latest research and pick up some tools to help yourself and your colleagues.”
The first step in dealing with burnout is admitting and accepting the problem, Dr. Shah said.
“Part of what will be useful about this symposium is hearing about these troubling features that we see in ourselves and our colleagues that we have dismissed as being an inescapable part of medicine. Maybe we shouldn’t dismiss them after all,” he said. “The real question is, how do we pause and think about the factors that might be driving burnout? How do we change? How do we keep from continuing down that same destructive path?
“We aren’t just going to talk about the problem, we’re going to talk about tools you can use to make a difference, tools that can help you be a more effective doctor,” Dr. Shah said.
Please refer to the DDW Mobile App or the Program section in Sunday’s DDW Daily News for additional details on this and other DDW® events.