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Take Charge of Your Career to Avoid Physician Burnout

Jackson Physician Search
February 26, 2020

Take Charge of Your Career

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, through the year 2026, physician employment is projected to increase by 13%.  The demand is related to many factors, including the numbers of individuals who are newly insured through the Affordable Care Act, an aging population requiring the management of chronic diseases, and the number of physicians who are at or near retirement age.  Typically, physicians who were graduating and completing their residency could expect to begin practicing in a hospital or private setting.  Today, physicians have many more options available to them and a variety of career paths.  Let’s look at different career options physicians can choose to best fit their lifestyle.


One way the demand for physician’s services has opened up new career paths is on the academic side of medicine.  For some physicians, after completing their residency, they may decide that they are better suited to teach than to practice.  Others, who have spent a few years in a practice setting just want to make a career choice that provides more stable hours and work-life balance. Training the next generation of physicians is a valid career option, and as long as demand is high, there will always be opportunities to teach the practice of medicine.  Another area of academic medicine that often gets overlooked is a career focused on research, or working in the pharmaceutical industry, or other specialized clinical environments.

Physician Leadership

As it has been in the corporate world for decades, healthcare is trending toward being more team-based.  This trend has created a wider avenue for physicians who are naturally inclined to take on more of a leadership role.  Leading clinical care teams provide physicians with the opportunity to exercise several skills that can ultimately translate into larger and more involved leadership positions within the organization.  Another parallel with the corporate world is that not every person has the skills and abilities to become leaders.  Physicians that have their sights set on the C-suite should focus on developing outstanding communication skills, conflict resolution, financial and operations management, and rounding out their overall business skills.

Private Practice

Many young physicians tend to gravitate toward working in a hospital setting for several years before considering other settings.  Nationally, the trend in the healthcare industry is for the majority of physicians being hospital-employed, but that doesn’t mean private practice opportunities aren’t available.  As recently as 2018, up to 46% of physicians worked independently with an ownership stake in private practice.

Choosing a Path That Fits your Lifestyle

Working in a high-demand occupation, physicians have more choices available to them than ever before.  Having choices means that doctors who find themselves in toxic work environments, or in a position with unruly schedules or excessive call hours, have the option to pursue new opportunities.  Much has been written about the levels of burnout being experienced by physicians in today’s healthcare environment, so it is important to consider if a job change can help resolve the issues.

Here are several ways to combat burnout and achieve a better work-life balance.

Envision Your Best Life

The first key to achieving work-life balance is to gain an understanding of what it would look like in your ideal lifestyle.  Think about all the things you would do if you had a reasonable work schedule.  Maybe you would go on golf outings, or spend time hiking or skiing.  You and your loved ones are the only people who can describe what that scenario looks like, so take the time and create a list.  Once you understand what your best life looks like, you can create a plan to get there.

Own Your Schedule

If someone asked you how you spend the majority of your day, would you have a clear answer?  When physicians are asked what is contributing to their unruly schedules, many of them immediately cite the amount of clerical work and documentation that they are required to perform. If you find that your day just “gets away from you,” and you don’t have a clear picture of why, unfortunately, you are going to have to take some time and document your activities for a few days. Once you have a determination of where the time drag is coming from, you can work on a resolution. Your career as a physician means that you are a natural problem solver, and your time is an issue to be solved, not ignored.

Lean on a Mentor

Just because you are a well-established physician, doesn’t mean that you have all the answers. We all have times in our life where we get so deep into the weeds that we can’t see our way out.  You are not alone in that, and it is times like this that having a mentor, or even a trusted colleague, can make all the difference in helping you find your way.  Having a mentor means that you have access to someone who has been where you are at, and they may have tips or tricks that you haven’t considered.  And even if they don’t, you will feel better getting your frustrations off your chest.  Keeping it all bottled up is the surest way to exacerbate burnout.


Everyone in healthcare is aware of the levels of burnout being experienced by physicians and other staff.  Being aware of burnout doesn’t mean your administrators are actively working on or even close to implementing strategies to help combat the issue.  As a physician, you already have the staff looking up to you for some level of leadership, and when burnout becomes a debilitating issue for yourself and others, it is time for you to get involved.  Administrators and other healthcare executives may not understand the size of the issue, or they may not have a clue how to address the problem.  Stepping up to be a part of the solution will go a long way toward the creation of a happier and healthier work environment.

Treat Your Time as Sacred

How many times are you at a family function, or even just relaxing at a backyard barbecue and your phone starts blowing up?  And, how often has the issue or reason for the call not been an actual emergency?  To ensure that you are making the most out of every opportunity you have to recharge your batteries, treat your personal time as sacred.  Just like no one will barge into an exam room when you are with a patient unless it is an emergency, the same rule should apply when you are on your own downtime.  Develop an understanding with your co-workers that your time is your own, and unless it is an actual emergency, you shouldn’t be disturbed.  By doing so, you will quickly find out how much fun and relaxation you can enjoy when you are fully disconnected from your work environment.

If you are ready for a new opportunity that can put you on the path towards a better career or better work-life balance, reach out to the experienced recruitment professionals at Jackson Physician Search today.


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