Intense feelings of emotional exhaustion and detachment in up to 60% of medical students and residents and up to 54% of nurses and physicians is compromising the quality of health care, according to a press release from the National Academy of Medicine.
“Sometimes, people will just not care because they don’t feel like they’re doing a good job or can’t focus on providing care because of paperwork,” Dean of Pharmacy Lynn Crismon said. “How would you like to get on an airplane and think the pilot was burnt out?”
A report published by the National Academy of Medicine last Wednesday called this “clinician burnout.” The report advised addressing burnout in training and early career stages for health care professions and reducing the stigma around asking for help. Crismon said some student stress can come from the increasing requirements for medical knowledge.
“Biomedical knowledge continues to grow, and you can’t continue to increase the content and curriculum without overwhelming students,” Crismon said.
Pharmacy graduate student Hannah Adair said a shift to pass-fail would relieve the pressure to memorize every detail. Crismon said pass-fail would be a good step toward reducing burnout at UT.
“It’s like trying to drink through a fire hose with all the information that’s just coming at you,” Adair said. “If you get into a health care-related field, obviously you’re interested in this material. It’s just the burnout feeling comes when you’re constantly tested here, here, here and always trying to do the absolute best.”
These stresses increase the risk of mental illnesses such as depression. Although it varies state by state, disclosure of mental health issues could create difficulties with obtaining medical licensing, Crismon said.
“Students may not reach out because they think they’re a burden,” said pharmacy graduate student Abraham Villagomez. “Students might struggle alone because everyone else seems fine, so they don’t want to bother anyone.”
Adair said she encountered seemingly burned out physicians in her training. She said when asked, these physicians said they would not enter health care again because of the intense amount of work required.
“Right now, it is disheartening if you do go out and meet a pharmacist or something and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m burned out,’” Adair said. “It makes you skeptical, like, ‘Oh no, did I choose the right field?’ If we start addressing this issue of mental health early, we can combat burnout in health care.”