Signs and symptoms of burnout

Burnout in healthcare continues to be a prominent story in healthcare. Unfortunately, it is not just a catchy headline. Twenty-five percent of physicians, nurses, and advanced practice providers are considering switching careers, according to one recent survey conducted by Bain & Company. Of those considering leaving healthcare, 89% cited burnout as the main reason. The following resource is intended to help your organization be on the lookout for signs of burnout and offer ways to help combat it. 

Physical signs

  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Poor grooming
  • Unusual weight loss/gain
  • Complaints of physical ailments

Behavioral/emotional signs

  • Decreased attention span
  • Unusual irritability or disruption
  • Inappropriate comments/jokes
  • Loss of motivation
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

Physician-specific signs

  • Failure to show up for morbidity and mortality (M&M) conferences when one of the resident’s cases will be discussed
  • Self-prescribing controlled substances, or asking peers to prescribe them
  • A decline in dependability, such as not answering pages promptly
  • Failure to dictate or sign charts


Strategies for combating burnout

Two modes of interventions to burnout exist: workplace-driven interventions and individual-driven interventions. Your organization should support and encourage a mix of the two.

Workplace-driven interventions

Workplace-driven interventions include the following:

  • Developing stress reduction programs (e.g., meditation/mindfulness training, emotional intelligence training)
  • Increasing staff awareness about burnout (e.g., consider mentoring programs, small group discussions about factors that could lead to burnout, and solutions to these factors)
  • Increasing support for providers who care for challenging patient populations
  • Ensuring reasonable workload for providers (e.g., night float, home call, schedules made based on circadian rhythms)

Individual-driven interventions

Individual-driven interventions include the following:

  • Participating in group activities (e.g., professional meetings, lectures, social activities with colleagues)
  • Meditation/mindfulness utilization
  • Physical activity
  • Creating a firm boundary between work and personal life
  • Counseling
  • Reflective writing
  • Spiritual activities