Physicians are one of the most stressed and overworked professionals in any profession. They are responsible for treating their many patients all the while trying to keep themselves healthy and sane. They work long hours, don’t get enough breaks, and often fail to tend to their basic needs. There are already tons of other issues that are causing physician stress, and this is way before the COVID-19 crisis.
Most doctors entered the field due to their passion for helping and healing the sick. But this does not mean all who pursued their passion are genuinely happy with their career choice. The sad thing is that, when compared with other professionals, physicians have the highest suicide rate.
According to a study, about 300 physicians die by suicide each year. Note that this study was conducted before the pandemic. This does not include the number of physicians who also had suicidal tendencies but chose not to act on them.
One day, news broke that the COVID-19 issue is now a pandemic. For most people, this means having to abide by the new safety precautionary measures to keep themselves safe. But for physicians, this is more than just an additional workload.
Even before the pandemic, physicians were struggling to find work-life balance. Their long hours of work and incredibly hectic schedule are already causing them mental stress, emotional breakdowns, and over fatigued bodies. But in the wake of the pandemic, everything just started to get even worse.
Hospitals are overflowing with both regular patients and those infected by the virus. This meant healthcare providers need to do extra work and be extremely careful in handling patients. They do this to prevent cross-contamination while keeping themselves as safe as possible from the virus.
The added stress does not end when they are still wearing their required PPEs. After every shift, physicians long for adequate rest and sleep, food in their stomach, and the love of their loved ones. But being exposed to COVID-19 patients meant the need for social isolation not only from other people but their families as well.
After a hard day at work, many physicians long to be with their family as a way of easing stress. But since physicians are putting their lives at risk while helping fight the pandemic, this meant they now have to make more sacrifices by doing everything they can just to make sure their families are safe. This mostly means physically isolating themselves from their loved ones which, in turn, adds more stress to their already burned-out selves.
It is during these challenging times do physicians need to take better care of themselves. This is to make sure they are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy enough to tackle their daily stress. The good news is, there are things you can do to navigate physician burnout even during and after the pandemic.
For starters, it is important to have even a simple plan and strategy will allow you to take better care of your basic needs each day. Even with a busy schedule, make it a point to get as much rest and sleep and eat enough healthy meals to get your daily dose of energy. Also, create your time audit for the week. This will help you better manage your time and avoid wasting as much time when working as possible.
It also pays that you start investing in better innovations that will make your practice more efficient and more available to your patients. Since telemedicine is encouraged these days, you can opt for a better but simpler solution by working with one of the best telemedicine companies. This way, you can still tend to your other patients without them having to drive to your clinic and increase their peace of mind. This also allows you to take advantage of the lower overhead costs while retaining more patients and revenue.
Physicians should also find other ways to connect and engage with their loved ones now that physical isolation is a common occurrence. Thankfully, technology makes it easier to communicate even with family and friends that are a thousand miles away. Calls, texts, chats, and video calls are a good way to maintain contact and find support.
Aside from these, physicians should also recognize that even they may need the services of other professionals. Studies show that many physicians are reluctant to seek psychiatric help even if they need it due to the medical stigma present. Gaining support from an expert can help them better realize their feelings, vent out their frustrations, and get advice from the pros. Admitting you need help and recognizing your vulnerability aids in improving yourself, your practice, and how you handle your stress.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused fear, increased anxiety, and added an incredible amount of stress to many. But to physicians, their stress just increased tenfold thanks to the COVID-19 crisis. Learning how to manage their time better, taking better care of their health, and gaining support from the pros and their loved ones are some of the best ways to start fighting physician burnout during the pandemic.