New book explores burnout among physicians and healthcare workers
University of Utah psychologist, Dr. Joseph Allen, is releasing a new book on July 21, called The Burned Out Physician: Managing the Stress and Reducing the Errors, which provides insight as to what healthcare workers in the U.S. are physically and mentally enduring following the aftermath of COVID-19.
Allen said physicians work for long hours in intense conditions. The weight of being responsible for patients’ health and well-being seems to be getting heavier. He said it is important to understand we cannot expect physicians to battle burnout through becoming more resilient; instead, we need to change how society approaches health and well-being.
“When you’re burned out, you make mistakes," Allen said. "Well, if you make a mistake in the office, you have some typos in your report you’re turning into your boss—big deal. If you make a mistake and you’re a surgeon, well somebody gets hurt or dies. So medical error is a huge issue, and yet we’re not addressing some of the causes of medical error which is the burning out of our healthcare providers who we need to be 100% when they’re working on us.”
The book was co-written with Davidson College psychology professor, John E. Kello, and published by Cambridge University Press.
Allen said he conducted a variety of interviews and listened to personal stories from healthcare workers describing their sense of burnout in the medical field to gather information for the book.
“We talked to doctors, we talked to nurses, we talked to residents," Allen said. "It was fascinating to hear about how burned out they really are, how used up they really feel, and also what they think might be solutions for them.”
Allen said the best thing the public can do to help physicians and healthcare workers not feel so much burn-out, which can lead to medical errors or a surplus of doctors leaving the field, is to simply take better care of themselves.
“One of the biggest things a patient can do, is not become a patient if they can help it," Allen said. "And I’m not saying ‘don’t go see your doctor.’ I’m saying we should make better healthcare choices for ourselves, better wellness choices. We should eat better; we should exercise; we should make better choices in terms of our lifestyle.”