Physician Burnout: Why it still matters

Medscape recently released its annual National Physician Burnout and Depression Report. It reveals that out of the 29 specialties, plastic surgeons and dermatologist rank the lowest in the bunch. While it is no cause for alarm, it is still important to take care of yourself as a physician as some studies find there is a connection to patient care and medical errors as well.

Bureaucratic tasks are the most cited reason for burnout. The second reason for burnout is working too many hours, and the third top reason is lack of respect from peers or colleagues or employees. Burnout is still an important cause for concern due to the effects that take a toll on physicians. Depression also affects their interaction with staff. 

In this regard prior to releasing Medscape’s annual results, a study was published that examined if doctors also sought cosmetic surgery when they were burned out (Milothridis et al, 2017). Liposuction was a preferred surgical procedure as exercise was less practiced by the physicians that took part in the study.


  • Doctors were more interested in undergoing elective cosmetic procedures because exercise, while an option, seems like a long term process in losing weight
  • Burnout may trigger low self-esteem and distorted body perception.
  • Women in their study were more interested in undergoing cosmetic procedures.

In the study, the sample size was small, but it shows that there are tendencies to look into cosmetic surgery when physicians are burned out and consider procedures that would result in something instant.

Who is the most burned out?

Women are the most burned out physicians based on the survey. Based on a JAMA article, sexual harassment is also another factor for burn out. Depression also contributes to physician burnout. Even if that is the case, the Medscape survey reveals that physicians’ depression does not affect their interaction with their patients.
How to deal with burnout and depression?

Apparently, based on the survey plastic surgeons are willing to seek help for depression or burnout.

Burnout and depression, while crippling at times, can be managed. Based on the survey, exercise, talking with loved ones, and sleep are ways to cope and manage their stresses. Self-care is a necessity for all physicians.

Software applications can also help curb burnout. There’s no exact one application in managing the burnout, but meditation applications and breathing exercise applications or any other lifestyle applications can help ease one’s mind.

Burnout is a common phenomenon across different industries. Learn to acknowledge it and manage and balance work and life activities.