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The Dangers of Physician Burnout & Why You Should Care

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tulane chapter.

As COVID dragged on into 2021 the world was made aware of a critical issue that affected doctors as well as the healthcare of the public: physician burnout. According to the NCBI, physician burnout is a job-related stress syndrome resulting in emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Due to the strain and pressure chronically put on doctors during the pandemic, many began to exhibit symptoms of this syndrome. But the pandemic isn’t to blame entirely, in fact, if we think about it the root of the problem is the healthcare system and the environment it creates. If you’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy or any other medical show you have probably gathered how intense the work hours are. The average doctor works about 40-60 hours per week, but further surveys concluded that a quarter of doctors have work weeks of 61-80 hours. In fact, hospital residents and interns are expected to work 80-hour weeks and commonly have 28-hour shifts. A typical person in today’s workforce only works 40 hours per week at most. Not only are the hours long but the demands of said physicians on a daily basis are unfathomable. As a doctor or medical practitioner in a hospital when you perform your job you are taking on the responsibility of keeping another human being alive. The high stakes of the job further apply when it comes to one’s reputation in the medical community.

It doesn’t help that due to the pandemic, doctors’ appointments have evolved to zoom rather than in-person visits. Most doctors love the personal aspect of their job, getting to know and connect with their patients, but due to the transition to online visits, this valued element was stripped away.

As a society, we depend on doctors and everyone in the healthcare system to take care of us. Though we need them, at the same time, we take them for granted. We believe that they will always be there no matter what. But this is a dangerous and arrogant delusion to live in. At this moment, 62.8% of physicians in the U.S. have or are currently experiencing physician burnout that affects their life, mental health, and their work. Therefore, it inherently affects the public whether you want to believe it or not. Doctors, and all medical personnel, are the backbone of society and deserve to be taken care of. They deserve better access to mental health resources and the assurance that they will not be penalized when they do reach out for help. Mental illness, even after decades of raising awareness, is still heavily stigmatized in this country. How do we expect our doctors to get the help they need if society deems them weak for doing so? As a society, we must do better so that our doctors, whom we all deeply care for, can get the help that they need.

Chloe Fowler

Tulane '25

Chloe is a Junior at Tulane University who is double majoring in Neuroscience and Gender & Sexuality. When she isn't writing for Her Campus she loves spending time with her friends, volunteering with local organizations, exploring NOLA, sewing/upcycling, and playing volleyball.