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03/07/2018    James Koon, DPM

One-third of Physicians at Major U.S. Hospital are 'Burned Out'

It is not infrequent anymore to read articles
that show higher and higher rates of physician
burnout. The thing is this: no one cares. Joe Q
Public could not (and does not) concern
themselves with your emotions one bit. In their
minds, you are still a rich doctor who only cares
about making money. Certainly there are a
microcosm of patients that care about you but be
assured, 99% couldn’t give a flip about us.

I’ve been practicing for twenty years. The first
18 were in a private practice and the last two in
a multi specialty clinic. There are pros and cons
to both but I must admit that being in a multi
specialty clinic has far more pros than cons. My
80 hour work week is now a 50 hour week. The
money is about the same.

The first year of Meaningful Use wore me out
completely. The number of hours of studying the
exact verbiage and implementing the program cost
me dearly in terms of exhaustion. With the
continuance of MIPS/MACRA/etc. I am still tired.
I still spend more time on the computer for each
patient than I do actually taking care of them.
The continued needs of the patients, their
increased expectations and their desire to have
it all given to them for free has turned Medicine
into a much less rewarding profession. And yet,
they continue to put more on us and expect us to
do it for less money. I keep telling my friends I
don’t know how much more they think we can take
but they keep piling it on.

I don’t mind working hard. And I don’t mind that
I’m never going to get rich. What I do mind is
working so hard and consistently feeling like I
am not being compensated enough for it. And while
I’m sure that is being interpreted by some as my
complaining that I’m not making enough money, it
goes beyond money in feeling justly compensated.
No one appreciates things anymore. No one cares
that we go the extra mile for them behind the
scenes to get a graft covered or justify MRI
studies or securing them the proper DME, etc.
They all want everything right now and at no
cost.

Physician exhaustion is here to stay. Sadly, it
is only going to get worse. Doctors are by nature
giving people but there is a point to which you
can’t give anymore. I am there and have been for
some time. Exhaustion makes a person apathetic
and that is a pervasive sentiment in Medicine
now. We all see it in our colleagues and friends.
It leads to incomplete care, mistakes and
generally bad Medicine. PAs and NP’s are so
prevalent now that Doctors are becoming more and
more expendable by clinics and insurance
companies. Do they carry burden? Sure, but not
like we do. After all, we’re responsible for them
too.

Things are bad and getting worse. The only
defense you have is to decide how much you are
going to take and define that line for everyone.
Too many are turning to the bottle or drugs to
cope. Don’t. Find coping mechanisms that work for
you and employ them consistently.

It’s a career that can be rewarding still. You
just have to draw lines of tolerance and stick to
them.

James Koon, DPM, Winter Haven, FL


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