The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

December 1, 2012

Mayo Clinic Health System taking steps to combat physician burnout

A new study shows that nearly 45 percent of physicians are experiencing some signs of burnout.

But at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, they’re trying to stay ahead of the curve. There’s a concerted effort to let physicians know there is a place they can go for help. It’s the kind of thing that, 20 years ago, probably wouldn’t have existed in medicine.

Today, though, there’s growing recognition that grueling hours and a growing workload can take a toll on a physician.

“There is a shift,” says Mayo physician Panagiotis Panagiotakis. “You cannot be 100 percent all the time. It’s a job where you deal with human pain all the time and it’s very stressful.”

Burnout can come in many forms. Detachment, diminishing empathy and emotional exhaustion are all signs of burnout.

The Archives of Internal Medicine study, which was published in August, surveyed more than 7,000 physicians. Nearly half reported at least one symptom of burnout. The specialties most at risk were family medicine, general internal medicine and emergency medicine.

“It’s because of the number of patients, the clerical tasks, the management of patients,” Panagiotakis says. “The family physician is really a quarterback. I used to work in internal med. You have to work with patients over the long haul and deal with insurance. It’s very easy to become cynical after a while.”

And burned out.

Mayo has a program that is systemwide and lets doctors know right away when they come on board that there’s a place they can go for help if they’re feeling symptoms of burnout.

Mayo psychologist Lisa Hardesty said Mayo recently surveyed its own doctors to see how burned out they were and found Mankato had some of the best results, or the least amount of burnout symptoms overall among doctors.

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