Physician Burnout in the Cosmetic Medicine Community

Physicians are under immense pressure, which could lead to exhaustion that may cost their time in the practice but also their patients. In this article, we tackle the causes of burnout in the field of cosmetic medicine.

Physician Burnout in the Cosmetic Medicine Community

It is not uncommon for any working adult to say, “I’m tired, I want to quit”.

Physicians may feel this burden heavier others considering the amount of pressure over a career.

Medscape has done a study on physician burnout and bias last January. Measures of burnout were based on low sense of personal accomplishment, feeling of cynicism, and loss of enthusiasm for work. In cosmetic medicine (i.e. dermatology and plastic surgery), the top reason for burnout is bureaucratic tasks. Other reasons cited were computerization of practice, outcome of the Affordable Care Act, and lower received income.

In an article by dermatologist, Dr. J. Michael Knight, he points out the causes of burnout for aesthetic medicine practitioners (i.e. dermatology and plastic surgery). He further elaborates on the causes also enumerated by Medscape, which contribute to the physical and mental exhaustion of a doctor in cosmetic medicine. Bureaucratic tasks and adoption of telemedicine seem overwhelming to cosmetic practitioners. Time is mostly dedicated to patients, and the growing use of technology in the clinic seems a never-ending race. 

Patients are also a key factor in physician burnout. In cosmetic medicine, old procedures evolve and new procedures are implemented. With the increase of insecurities brought upon by social media and peers, more individuals look to aesthetic practitioners for their source of self-esteem. That demand increases, making it difficult for some physicians to fulfil a patient’s request. That could have a butterfly effect as that one patient could network to more individuals seeking treatment, which could mean less inquiries and walk-ins for new and potential patients. 

As similarly pointed out by the surveyed doctors in Medscape, low income is a cause for physician burnout as well. Some physicians know that costs are piling up, yet are paid less than most. In an example by Knight, they overshadowed by the deals presented by online sites that would entice their patients to purchase cheaper procedures done by non-physicians. Knight adds that it does not help they are working more hours with lesser pay. 

One way to prevent this from happening again is to educate and inform the staff about this occurrence. Acknowledging that physician burnout is important. The fact that other physicians take notice, staff could be made aware of the pressures faced by physicians whether it is medical or practice related. 

Another way is to make time for other activities. It will be difficult considering the demanded number of hours, but it is always recommended to make time for yourself or the activities that you once did which could help take your mind off work. A recommended activity is exercise, as it is one of the best ways to relieve any stress.

Aside from this, Mayo Clinic presented nine strategies to avoid burnout and you could find the resource here:

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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.