The Intake

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Common causes of stress in doctors — and how to manage stress at your practice

Physician burnout does not have to be your reality. See these common triggers of doctor stress and how to effectively address them.

a provider illustrating causes of stress in doctors

At a Glance

  • Physician burnout, currently prevalent, largely stems from too many administrative tasks, long hours, and ineffective technology use.
  • To alleviate burnout, try strategies like hiring a medical scribe for administrative tasks, automating office procedures using technology, and integrating with a better EHR.
  • Optimizing administrative processes and using good software can enhance practice efficiency, improve patient engagement, and reduce stress.

If you’re a physician, chances are high you’re experiencing some signs or symptoms of burnout. According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 47.3% of physicians report feeling burned out, while the 2023 Medscape Physician Burnout & Depression Report found that 53% of physicians report burnout.

What is physician burnout? According to the World Health Organization, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” When it comes to the medical field, physicians are at a high risk for burnout due to the long hours and high-stress nature of their jobs. 

Here are several common causes of stress in doctors and ways to help alleviate physician burnout

Common causes of physician stress

1. Too many bureaucratic tasks

Running a successful practice is hard work, and so is the accompanying administrative load. Almost two-thirds (61%) of doctors report that having too many bureaucratic tasks, like charting and paperwork, is the leading contributor to their burnout, according to Medscape’s burnout report. A Medscape report on compensation found that on average, physicians spent 15.5 hours per week on paperwork and administration. 

While essential to the operations of the practice, managing administrative tasks is not why physicians pursue a career in medicine. The more time physicians spend on paperwork, the less time they spend seeing patients, spending time with family, or resting and recharging. 

2. Long hours at the practice

Physicians tend to be passionate about their patients, but even the most dedicated professionals need time away from work. According to Medscape, more than one-third (37%) of doctors report that spending too many hours at work contributes most to their burnout, and with the average physician working 50 hours a week, it’s no surprise that 16% of doctors say that working long hours is the most challenging part of their job. 

3. Issues with health information technology

EHRs are supposed to make life easier, so it’s frustrating when they become a main cause of stress for doctors. Of the 15.5 hours per week that physicians spend on paperwork and administration, 9 of those hours are dedicated to EHR documentation, according to Medscape

Optimize Operations

Reduce stress and prevent physician burnout at your practice

1. Hire a medical scribe

Eliminate some of your heavy workload by hiring a medical scribe. This person will join you in patient appointments and take notes, so you can focus solely on care.

Your medical scribe can also assist with a variety of administrative tasks, such as updating EHRs, coordinating referrals, and obtaining medical records from other practices. In offloading some of your administrative tasks, hiring a scribe can be an effective way to battle physician burnout. 

2. Automate office tasks

Running a successful practice requires good business acumen and a host of support staff. And while your front office staff deals with the administrative work day to day, it’s likely that you have to help with the overflow. 

By automating some of your front office’s tasks with the right tools and tech, you increase the likelihood that they can handle their full workload and focus on more important tasks. For example, implementing online scheduling and automatic appointment confirmation can save tens of hours each week. 

When these tasks are off their plates, your staff will have the capacity to take on some — or all — of the administrative responsibilities you were handling. Consequently, you’ll be able to increase the amount of time you spend with patients while reducing your work hours.

3. Integrate your EHR

Your electronic health record (EHR) should make your life easier, so enhance it with a software platform that supports the needs of your practice. Integrated EHRs offer a variety of helpful functionality, like allowing patients to see your real-time availability, automating appointment reminders, and sending post-appointment patient feedback and review requests.

This allows your practice to increase bookings, be more efficient and productive, and gain a better reputation in the patient community. Eliminate your physician burnout and causes of stress in doctors while taking your practice to the next level. 

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Catherine Tansey, business writer and reporter

Catherine Tansey is a business and healthcare writer and reporter. She has close to a decade of experience writing and reporting on small business best practices, emerging technology, market trends, and more. Catherine has several family members who own private practices in mental health services, dentistry, and chiropractics, and she’s seen firsthand the pride and privilege practice owners feel to be able to support their communities.

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