It seems to me that at least once a week, I see a new article on physician burnout, suicide, and substance abuse. Allow this one to be added to that list.
The practice of Medicine is supposed to be humanitarian. A calling. Emotionally and financially rewarding. Yet, according to an article in the March 2015 issue of Endocrine News, 45% of endocrinologists and 47% of those endocrinologists aged 35 and under report feeling burned out.
So why are so many physicians, and particularly endocrinologists burned out?
I have my theories. We see patients for the long haul. They have chronic illnesses and we can’t “fix” them. The best we can hope for is that they manage their illnesses well, and unfortunately, many of them don’t. They are needy, too. They need a lot of prescriptions written and labs explained and hands held. They blame a lot of symptoms on their illnesses or their meds even if they are unrelated. Their meds can be expensive and we spend a lot of time on the phone (unpaid) to get those meds paid for by insurance.
We work long hours. Long after the patients and staff go home, we are still filling out forms, making phone calls, writing letters. We spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our families.
And while we may make a comfortable living, as a subspecialty, we don’t get paid much. At least, not compared to specialties that have procedures. We don’t get paid for spending an extra 10 minutes explaining how insulin works or what a “carb” is or why you need to see the eye doctor every year. We don’t get reimbursed for trying to convince someone that more thyroid hormone is not the answer to weight loss.
And the Internet is the enemy. OK, maybe not the total enemy, but there is a lot of misinformation out there, and it seems to me that much of it is endocrine related. I don’t know how many patients come in after having done their “research” who try to convince me to change their management because a famous TV doctor said something about some supplement.
There are also a lot of “pseudo-endocrinologists” who treat people with testosterone and pig thyroid and hydrocortisone as a cocktail for their obesity and fatigue. And who has to clean up the mess?
Having said all that, what else would we do? I think people go into endocrinology because of the cognitive aspect of it. That’s why we spend so much time trying to explain things to patients. And it is the puzzle-solving and the challenge that led us to this specialty. We just need to keep life in perspective and take care of ourselves from time to time to keep from burning out.
Can you relate to any of the above? How do you wind down? Keep work/life in balance? What did you love most about endocrinology that led you to choose it as your specialty? Would you leave us a comment below?