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Dr. Steve Vargo | 2/28/2022

Are you experiencing burnout in your professional career? It’s okay, you can admit it. You’re not alone. In fact, studies have found that approximately 50 percent of physicians are suffering from burnout.

Twelve billion dollars. That’s a conservative estimate of the cost incurred to the health care system due to turnover produced by burnout. And this is just for physicians! All those in the health care profession, including independent ODs, can experience periods of stress and burnout related to their career.


The Effects of Burnout and Strategies to Reduce It

Despite your best attempts to put on a good face, it’s unlikely this goes unnoticed by your patients. Stress and anxiety eventually rear their heads in noticeable ways. This isn’t good for you or your patients. In fact, research from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates that burned out physicians have two times higher odds of making medical errors—a leading cause of death in the United States.

Researchers have explored strategies to reduce stress for physicians. Much of the early research focused on what would be categorized as “escapism.” This involved getting away from patient care as much as possible and pursuing more activities such as exercise, nature hikes, and meditation. See fewer patients or take more time off.

Does this reduce burnout? Yes, but the effects are only modest at best.

What had a more profound effect on reducing burnout was not getting away from patient care, but changing how patient care was provided. It turns out that physicians least likely to experience burnout are those that experience higher levels of meaningful connection with their patients. They are not less busy; they are more fulfilled.


Counteract Burnout with Human Connection

Things like exercise, good sleep, and work-life balance are very important, but they tend to be self-focused. It turns out that focusing on others is often a more effective antidote to feeling burned out.

So how do you apply this in your practice? There’s no magic formula here. Just spend more time making a human connection with your patients. Lean in. Make eye contact. Get to know them as people. Ask questions about their lives, work, families, and hobbies. Physicians that did this intentionally, even for just a few weeks, reported that the fog of burnout began to lift. For many it was transformational.

The solution was more human connection, not less.

To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”


Use Your Time for Patient Care

If you’re feeling bogged down by the demands of running a business and focusing on patient care, IDOC is here to help. IDOC Services lighten your workload and give you back your time to spend with patients, build relationships, and pursue personal life goals outside of the office. From bookkeeping to marketing, HR, and optical management, we offer end-to-end practice management solutions that give you the freedom to spend your time your way.

Learn more about IDOC’s full suite of services:

IDOC Financial Services | IDOC Marketing Services | IDOC HR Services |IDOC Optical Services

Dr. Steve Vargo
Practice Management Consultant
Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in a clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant and advises members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. Steve and his wife Melanie have two sons, Lucas and Ryan. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, sports and music. A native Chicagoan, he is an avid fan of the Cubs, live music and deep-dish pizza.
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