Burned Out

October 13th, 2020

Some causes of physician burnout are obvious.

Work weeks that average more than fifty hours, making decisions with life or death consequences. Calls and texts about patient care on evenings and weekends. The frustrating and uncompensated hours spent entering observations into electronic health records. The reduction in medical autonomy as value-based care pushes down on costs, empowering administrators over physicians.

There's another driver of stress that is seldom included in the burnout equation—financial worries. Though largely unexamined as a driver of burnout, our conversations with doctors suggest financial stress is a big contributor.

For younger doctors, financial worries center on loan burdens and the tension between loan repayment and lifestyle. Older doctors often worry about making a successful retirement transition. What both generations need are realistic success scenarios that are data-driven and based on best practices.

The best way to reduce your financial stress is to have a credible plan. Having a strategy with tasks, milestones, and measures clearly laid out replaces the scary unknowns with a practical roadmap. Knowing you’re on track financially can turn an unconscious "I'll never" to a confident "I can."

Lack of confidence about your financial future compounds workplace stress. It’s much less likely you'll be overstressed in a job at which you choose to remain even after you've attained walkaway wealth.

Doctors are excellent at connecting current behavior to future outcomes, as long as they have credible data to link cause to effect. What they are not good at—none of us are—is making profound lifestyle changes without confidence they will lead to results.

Get the dollars right, and you may well rediscover the psychological rewards of medicine.

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