ACOG Menu

At Risk for Burnout? Check These 5 Warning Signs

Providing health care to others takes a lot of energy: physical, intellectual, and emotional. It can be enormously rewarding to be an ob-gyn, but it can also take a toll on your health. It’s important to understand the warning signs of potential burnout.

If we are able to detect warning signs early, it gives us a better chance of avoiding the complete burnout that is so detrimental to our physical and mental well-being. Here are a few warning signs:

  1. Dread. Everybody dreads going to work once in a while. Perhaps you have an extra-long shift scheduled or a boring meeting planned. But when you notice that you dread going to work more days than not, it may be a sign of burnout.
  2. Increased complaining. As noted above, we all have annoying, difficult days at work. It’s not unusual to want to talk about those frustrations with family or friends: “You’ll never believe what my manager said at our staff meeting today!” or “Can you believe I have to work on Christmas again?” But it’s important to be on the lookout for criticism about work that increases in regularity and severity. Are you grumbling about your job to your spouse every day? Spending a significant amount of time venting about work to your friends? It might be a sign of burnout.
  3. Irritability. Having a short fuse, getting annoyed easily, being bugged—these are all ways of describing irritability. Some testiness from time to time is normal. But finding yourself annoyed with your work, your family, your friends and your pets on a regular basis (like multiple times a day, most days) is a red flag and might be a sign of professional burnout.
  4. Lapses in confidentiality. All physicians know the importance of maintaining patient confidentiality. Not only is it the law, but it is also an essential ethical standard for all types of providers. One of the things that can happen when caregivers become burned out is that their normally high standards of confidentiality may lapse. You may find yourself talking about a patient in greater detail at home than you normally would. Or you may take fewer precautions to disguise patient identity when discussing their care with family or coworkers.
  5. Loosening boundaries. Another sign of burnout is letting the boundaries between physician and patient blur. For example, you may find yourself divulging more about your personal life than you normally would to your patients. Or you may make snide comments or outright complaints about your employer, coworkers, or profession while caring for a patient.

It is normal to have bad days occasionally. But any marked change in the above behaviors might be a sign that you need to assess your level of health and happiness in regard to your professional life.

Article Originally Published on ACOG Career Connection