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Doctors Too Tough, Dedicated for Mental Health Days

doctor stressBy Lisa Johnson

The morning buzzer goes off, but you’re just not ready to face a day at work. You text your boss that you’re not feeling well and roll back over for a day of rest and relaxation. Up to 82 percent of Americans admit that they take an occasional mental health day.

Yet when we asked our Sermo physicians how many mental health days they had taken in the past year, we were floored that 78 percent answered zero.

Physician culture

Beginning in medical school, future physicians are taught to suck it up. To go to work sick, tired, or stressed. To just get through the day. To take care of the patients. This culture is strong among all physicians and likely contributes to the high burnout rate.

In fact, according to the New York Times, one of every two doctors experiences some burnout on any given day. These clusters of symptoms of emotional exhaustion, lack of empathy, and low sense of accomplishment are frequently discussed on Sermo.

We asked our doctors recently about what they felt contributed to physician burnout. Their top answers were:

  • 40% work / life imbalance
  • 33% lack of control
  • 19% dysfunctional workplace

Ideas to reduce physician burnout

The biggest hurdle is to acknowledge it exists in the workplace. From private practice to large hospital settings, measures should be in place to protect physicians from burnout. This will improve patient care and improve the rate of attrition of physicians leaving their fields for less stressful jobs. Some suggestions include:

  • Flexible work hours
  • Streamlining administrative tasks so doctors can focus more on their patients
  • Mindfulness training

If mental health days are not a viable option for most physicians, what do you think are effective ways for doctors to rest and regain a little balance? What do you think are the warning signs of physician burnout? Have you experienced these yourself? If you’re an M.D. or D.O., please join us online to discuss this further inside Sermo.


Lisa Johnson is the content marketing manager for Sermo.com, please join the conversation on Twitter @Sermo.

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