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      Physician burnout is a serious issue, even considered an epidemic by some. Recent surveys show burnout rates have risen nearly 10 percent over the last few years. While many might expect the burnout to occur for physicians because of the rigors of working in a hospital or private practice day in and day out, a new report actually shows the burnout begins much earlier... in medical school.

      Physician Burnout Begins in Medical School

      A new survey from Medscape discovered that approximately 80 percent of medical school students are burned out. Additionally, 54 percent say they sometimes experience burnout, but 20 percent of medical students admit burnout is "almost always present."

      The Medscape surveyed polled more than 2,400 medical students and discovered that stress and work/life balance were consistently the biggest challenges facing them during their schooling. As a result, almost half of the students admitted they considered leaving medical school.

      Although many things have been attributed as causes of burnout -- from poor EHR technology to the overall environment of the practice - it seems as our country's future doctors are experiencing burnout before they put on the white coat.

      What causes physician burnout?

      The most common metaphor used to explain physician burnout is a bank account. In this account is a store of energy, generally agreed upon to be in three different forms: physical, emotional, and spiritual energy.

      1. Physical Energy

      This refers to a physician’s “get up and go” levels—that are influenced by taking care of their physical body. Getting enough rest, keeping up a healthy exercise routine, and maintaining a healthy diet are all “rechargers” here.

      2. Emotional Energy

      Emotional energy is generated through developing and maintaining healthy relationship with loved ones—friends, family, even coworkers. Recharging this energy store is key in order to have emotional availability for patients and staff.

      3. "Spiritual" Energy

      This energy is based on a physician’s sense of purpose. The “why” behind their reason for entering a healthcare profession to begin with, and the interactions with patients and staff that remind them of this purpose.

      For medical school students, financial stress is also seen as a major contributor. According to Medscape's survey, 45 percent of respondents will graduate with more than $200,000 in debt. With a debt amount that large, many people can feel trapped and believe it'll be virtually impossible to ever get out from underneath such a significant amount of debt.

      Regardless, while it's tough to completely remove stress and potential burnout from the equation, given the natural pressures of a medical career, it's evident that physician burnout is a problem that must be addressed even at the earliest levels of a doctor's career.

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