How to Beat Physician Burnout and Love Being a Doctor Again
As a primary care physician (PCP) in traditional medicine, my life was hell. I was a solo practicing internist with a 15-year career, and at 46 I was already burned out with no time for family, friends or hobbies, let alone dedicating the time I wanted to give my patients. Each day was a high-stress, uphill battle of not enough time.
Primary care physicians today are increasingly heading towards burnout, and it’s impacting the quality of how they care for their patients, their time with family and getting time for themselves to rejuvenate. Forget about having the time needed to stay on top of the latest research and treatment protocols to best serve their patients.
Recognize Signs of Physician Burnout
The bottom line is that physicians are trapped on the treadmill of “assembly-line” medicine. Research confirms that on average, PCPs will cut off their patients’ description of what ails them after just 11 seconds. They’re seeing 25-plus patients a day for just a few minutes each, and it’s causing an increasing numbers of doctors to rethink how they practice to avoid burning out completely, quitting or retiring early.
The crux of the matter is that increasing regulations, insurance paperwork, and other admin requirements begin to swallow physicians alive—causing increasing health issues for them personally from a high-pressure, unhealthy lifestyle with no time to take care of themselves. I worked 16-hour days, saw 25 patients for a rushed 10 minutes from 6 am to 8 pm—no break for lunch, no time for catching up. After paperwork and putting out fires, I’d get home at 10 pm and worked most weekends just to keep on top of things. I was mentally and physically exhausted and constantly stressed. I put on 30 pounds, felt lousy and had no quality of life. Sound familiar?
Rethink Your Practice Model
As PCPs, we want to practice medicine how we always imagined back in med school: getting to know our patients deeply to understand the root causes and broad nature of their conditions, their personal and family circumstances that may impact their health—and being able to have a relationship with them that allows for preventive care, research and extensive follow-through.
The traditional practice model today in no way allows for this, and many disheartened, overly stressed and unhealthy docs—just like I was—are looking at alternative ways to practice medicine. When I was at my wit’s end and took the time to research different practice models, it changed my life and the lives of my patients. I looked at concierge medicine but wasn’t thrilled at having some patients take preference over others I was seeing, just because they were paying a private fee.
Then I found a personalized primary care network called MDVIP that empowers me with time to practice medicine the way I was trained and time to pursue personal interests, and gives me financial stability in today’s unpredictable healthcare environment. This means I have more time to spend each day with fewer patients, really digging into their health with cutting-edge wellness checks, and having the time to actively participate in their health from a preventive perspective.
Enjoy Being a Doctor Again
Now I can work with patients on the impact of their lifestyle, nutrition, fitness and stressors, and truly work in partnership to get them back on track to a healthier life, take preventive measures, and proactively manage their conditions in an intimate physician-patient relationship where I know their family members’ names and even the name of their dog.
Most importantly, I’m no longer feeling burned out because I love what I do now. I have my life back, time with my family, I’m enjoying hobbies, and I’m personally healthier. I spend on average at least half an hour with each patient—and I’m being financially rewarded for my expertise. As an MDVIP-affiliated physician, I see 10 to 12 patients a day and can dedicate time to their needs and do research.
It’s nerve wracking to make a big change in your practice. I was scared to do it. But it saved my life when I was on the edge of the burnout abyss—and I truly believe is helping me save and extend patients’ lives by having time to dig deep, go broad and catch health risks that I didn’t have as much time to pick up on in traditional practice.
If my former life describes yours and you’re about to burst from burnout, take it from me: it’s time to explore your options to change your life and the way you practice medicine to make it great again—for you and your patients.
Today, Dr. David J. Maleh, 46, is an MDVIP Network affiliate physician practicing personalized primary care in Wilmington, DE. For more information, visit MDVIP Physician Benefits, or call 866.281.1108.