Isolation contributes to physician burnout

By | November 14, 2017
Doctor Isolation

A great deal has been discussed concerning physician burn out. Various reasons have been provided such as less time with patients, more paperwork, litigation, difficulty in getting paid, and so forth. Previously, I discussed the implications of the definition of “what is success” as a potential issue when it comes to job satisfaction.

Yet, another reason is the issue of isolation. Physicians are social beings by nature. Our desire to work with patients is merely one example of working with others. Our training forced us to work with our fellow residents in a manner that created a strong bond and social interactions. For those of us who saw patients in the hospital, if compelled, most of us would probably say our favorite time of the day was when we were in the doctor’s lounge.

Today, however, physicians are more isolated than ever. Long gone are the days when doctors visited their patients in the hospital. Consequently, gathering in a communal location has been eradicated. Currently, face-to-face interaction with a fellow human is not required for a consult, rather communication occurs over computers. Furthermore, office space construction has phased into pods thus segregating everyone into their own space. And finally, CME is no longer obtained at seminars, instead it is done online.

If we want to improve job satisfaction, we must address these drivers of isolation. There are several possible solutions for this problem. For instance, our office designs need to be more open, creating a spirit of community. In addition, we can create communal work areas where people can go to relax and be with others. Finally, we can design formational programs that foster community.

Addressing burn out will require a multi-directional approach. Let us not forget the societal nature of physicians and address their social needs as we focus on bringing the joy back to work.