Stress and burnout in healthcare workers is an increasingly common phenomenon, and eye care professionals are not immune. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic found that roughly half of all physicians are overworked and overstressed. With a shortage of qualified healthcare practitioners and increased demand for medical services across the board, preventing physician burnout and, more specifically, optometrist burnout is vital.
What are the risks associated with doctor burnout? How does optometry burnout manifest itself? Which strategies work best for preventing physician burnout in healthcare?
More than 10% of the nearly 6,700 doctors interviewed reported committing at least one serious medical mistake in the three months prior to the survey. Previous studies have tied medical errors to 100,000–200,000 patient deaths each year, and the Mayo investigation found that healthcare facilities with excessive rates of doctor burnout had three times the error risk. Preventing physician burnout is a matter of life and death.
Feeling drained and tired at the end of the day is the most common physical symptom associated with burnout among eye care professionals. However, more often than not, these signs are accompanied by emotional and behavioral symptoms such as feelings of helplessness, detachment, isolation, and depression.
Loss of focus and increased irritability are two other common indicators of stress and burnout in healthcare workers. These two symptoms are important because they can exacerbate stress further. For instance, an optometrist experiencing burnout may struggle to provide proper care and deal with patients. They may miss diagnoses or simply omit necessary tests in their rush to move on to the next appointment.
If you think you may be suffering from optometry burnout, ask yourself these questions taken from “The Modern Practice and Optometrist Burnout Case” from the American Optometric Association:
The best way to avoid becoming overstressed as an eye care provider is to be cognizant of the causes of burnout and strive for work-life balance. Knowing how to prevent burnout in the workplace often hinges on personality, time management skills, and lifestyle choices outside of the practice.
Individuals with Type A personalities are more prone to burnout due to their high-achieving nature and commitment to perfection. Similarly, people with a low stress tolerance have an increased likelihood of becoming overwhelmed at work. Holding either of these traits doesn’t guarantee you will suffer from optometrist burnout, but it does put you at a higher risk.
The ability to manage your time is incredibly important as an eye care provider. Many cases of doctor burnout are caused by an inability to keep up with the demand from patients. The good news, however, is that time management is a skill that can be taught (find a mentor!), and having a full list of appointments is a good problem to have (and one that can be solved by hiring an associate).
It’s important to keep in mind that preventing burnout in healthcare goes beyond the workplace. Making healthy choices in your personal life will help you maintain balance and handle your professional responsibilities. Simple things like getting plenty of rest each night, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and taking time off to go on vacation or visit with family can help you minimize stress and avoid optometry burnout.
If you or someone you know feels stressed or overwhelmed, talk to a trusted peer or professional therapist. For more tips on how to prevent burnout in the workplace, read our articles on how to keep problems at home from affecting your professional life and how to stay healthy at work.