Physican burnout at 46 percent

Physician wellness is something you’ve probably never considered as a patient, but the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) and many others in the health care community are taking it seriously. We, as patients, trust our physicians as confidantes, healers and helpers, and expect them to be both physically and mentally healthy to be able to care for us to the best of their ability.Research shows many doctors today, however, are feeling burned out. A recent article in MedPage Today reported the mean average burnout rate for all physicians is almost 46 percent and for emergency medicine physicians it’s as high as 60 percent. The symptoms of burnout — constant exhaustion, disconnection from colleagues, family and friends and doubts about whether your job has any real purpose — can affect anyone. Physicians, however, are more susceptible to burnout because of the life and death nature of their work, the intensity of the emotions associated with it, the recent barrage of regulations requiring more time away from patients doing administrative work and a stigma among colleagues against seeking help.The statistics were made painfully real to me last year when one of my longtime personal physicians committed suicide. This man was my friend and a brilliant and caring physician. This shocking and sad event made me more fully aware of the problem and to recognize the Medical Society is duty bound to focus on all aspects of physician well-being. We currently are expanding our services and educational opportunities to help our members reconnect with the joy of practicing medicine. We also have joined with the North Carolina Medical Board and the North Carolina Physicians Health Program to examine how to eliminate the stigma physicians may feel in seeking help.Doctors care for us selflessly. But they are human, too. The NCMS is fully committed to seeing physicians receive the support they personally need, so they can continue to support and care for those who depend on them.Robert W. Seligson executive vice president and CEO of the North Carolina Medical Society. He also serves as CEO of the North Carolina Medical Society Foundation.