Editor’s Note: This post is drawn from a more extensive resource. Want more insight into this pervasive issue? Download it now.
Burnout among medical students, residents, and educators is at an all-time high. And, while we’ve all likely grown to strongly dislike the word “burnout,” or may even feel blame associated with the word, it’s important to recognize that there is a root cause to burnout. Continuously treating the ongoing symptoms with wellness programs may not be the long-term solution needed to move forward and advance medical education.
The National Library of Medicine estimates 45 to 56 percent of medical trainees had at least one symptom of burnout. While the COVID-19 pandemic and rising competency requirements are part of the problem, they aren’t the core cause of burnout plaguing our future healthcare professionals and educators.
What causes burnout among medical trainees and educators?
While many factors contribute to medical education burnout, there are three issues that stand out. Further, these factors tend to be universal, meaning they aren’t just issues in specific hospital groups, but rather a systematic shift in the way we approach medical education.
The main causes of burnout are:
- Increased paperwork: On average, each hour a clinician spends practicing comes with an additional two hours of paperwork. Due to time constraints, this paperwork is often done outside of work hours.
- Too many hours at work: The average physician works 50 to 52 hours per week while the average medical student or resident can work as many as 65 hours per week, according to University of Iowa Health Care.
- Increased quantity of digital systems: While digitization in the medical community is crucial to providing better care, learning multiple new tools and navigating disconnected systems is time consuming, especially for already overworked students, residents and physicians.
COVID-19 and the physician shortage have served to exacerbate these universal issues impacting educators and students across the country.
How does medical education burnout present itself?
Medical education burnout may present in multiple ways. The symptoms vary by person and can be impacted by external factors, such as mental health and home life. The most common medical education burnout symptoms include:
- Lack of interest in work-related activities
- Emotional distance from their job or studies
- Trouble sleeping
- Emotional exhaustion
- Reduced performance
How do you treat medical education burnout?
The current approach to treating medical education burnout isn’t working. While wellness programs have good intentions, they often fall woefully short of solving the root issues leading to medical education burnout. For example, a study published in 2019 found workplace wellness programs had no noticeable impact on actual metrics. If our current methods aren’t working, what is the solution to prevent medical students, residents and their educators from burning out?
- Leverage data to help students before they burn out
- Use automation to reduce repetitive tasks
- Use tools to make mandatory tasks easier to complete
For additional detail and process recommendations, download the full ebook.