How to Spot Burnout in Your Colleagues

By Physician Sense, for MDLinx
Published November 27, 2018

Key Takeaways

Even if you aren’t burnt out, the odds are, one of your colleagues is. Do you know how to spot the warning signs of physician burnout?

In only three years, physician burnout jumped from 45.5 to 54.4 percent. If that doesn’t get your attention, perhaps this will: The suicide rate among doctors is double what we see in the general population. You recognizing the burnout signs in a colleague could save their life.

“Every job has a constellation of job-specific stresses,” says Dr. Dike Drummond, who is CEO of The Happy MD and author of Stop Physician Burnout. For doctors, that constellation includes EMRs, energetic drain, staffing shortages, underprepared millennials and awful leadership. But there are also less-obvious factors contributing to physician burnout. Here’s what to watch out for.

Trouble at Home

Has your colleague who’s usually quick to regale you with their family’s latest vacation suddenly gone quiet? The extra-long hours they’re logging could be a sign that there’s some sort of crisis going on in their family life. Maybe their marriage is crumbling and they’re avoiding confronting it. Or maybe their spouse or child is sick. Maybe they’ve run into money trouble.

“People can burn out at work and absolutely nothing has changed about the work itself,” Drummond said in an earlier interview.

The only way to know is to ask. Get in the habit of asking your colleagues how they’re doing, Drummond says. But be persistent. Press past the knee-jerk “Fine, thanks.” Ask specific questions. An opportunity to talk things out might be just what they need.

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