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Why doctors disengage & how to fall in love with work again

Rekindle your love affair with medicine by overcoming doctor work-life balance struggles and other common issues faced by physicians.

doctor work life balance

How happy are doctors? Nine in 10 physicians are pleased with their choice of career, according to a 2017 survey conducted by the American Medical Association. But this doesn’t mean doctors don’t ever feel disengaged at work.

If you’re a physician who sometimes feels detached — or if you’re the one in 10 who isn’t in love with your job —  it’s time to rekindle your passion for medicine. Here’s a look at common issues faced by physicians and tips to overcome them.

Inability to fully focus on patients in the examination room

You want to provide the best possible patient care, which includes thoroughly documenting the visit in the EMR. Capturing as much information as possible is great, but many doctors feel they spend too much time looking at screens and not enough time looking at their patients.

Bringing a medical notetaker in the room with you is one way to avoid this issue. Ensuring your EMR is properly configured is another.

Spending less time on paperwork will allow you to concentrate more on the patient in front of you. You’ll have the opportunity to develop a stronger doctor-patient relationship, which can lead to higher quality care and increased patient retention.

Related: 5 ways doctors are hurting patient satisfaction — and don’t know it

Lack of a strong bond with other doctors

Working as a doctor is your dream, but the job can be trying. Being surrounded by a strong support system of other physicians you can relate to is essential. Lean on these peers during tough times and celebrate successes with them, because they truly get it.

Doctors who have close relationships with their colleagues are five times more likely to be engaged in their work and 70 percent of physicians employed by team-oriented practices are deeply fulfilled by their work, according to data collected by athenahealth. If you’re trying to figure out how to be a happy doctor, this might be your answer.

Spending too much time on non-medical tasks

Nearly three out of four doctors (73 percent) knew before they reached the age of 20 that they wanted to be physicians, according to the American Medical Association. Presumably, many of these individuals also knew they wanted to open their own practice. What medical schools don’t tell you about opening a practice, however, is the amount of time you spend on non-medical, business-related tasks.

To get away from projects you’re not passionate about, invest in software solutions or consider partnering with outside experts. To better advertise your practice, for example, you can invest in practice growth software that promotes your practice with little effort on your part, allowing you to dedicate more time to patient care.

Inability to see the impact of your care

For many physicians (24 percent) being good at what they do (e.g. finding answers and diagnoses) is the most rewarding part of their job, according to the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Report. If a high volume of patients aren’t returning for follow-up visits, this could explain why you’re falling out of love with your job.

Sending automated patient satisfaction surveys after each visit is a quick and easy way to gain valuable feedback. This allows you to know what you’re doing well and address issues in a timely manner, increasing the chance of developing long-term patient relationships.

Check out: 4 reasons your patient retention is declining — and how to fix it

Not having enough time to spend with patients

You became a doctor to help patients, so when you have to hustle through appointments, you become discouraged. Do realize you’re not alone, as physicians who feel rushed once a week or less are nearly 40 percent more likely to feel deeply fulfilled by their work each day, according to athenahealth.

Resolve this issue by scheduling longer appointments for patients. Spending more time with each person will make you happier with quality of care you’re able to provide, while simultaneously increasing patient satisfaction rates.

Long hours and lack of doctor work-life balance

Physician work-life balance isn’t always great. It’s not uncommon for doctors to put in long, irregular, and overnight hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If a lack of doctor work-life balance is causing you to resent the job, it’s time to make a change. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of physicians spend 20 hours per week or more on paperwork and administration, according to the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Report. Consider hiring additional staff to assist and/or investing in medical practice management software to streamline operations and get more time back in your day.

Look: How many office staff does my healthcare practice need?

Lack of challenging work

As a naturally curious person, you enjoy solving complex patient issues. If you feel like your work has become mundane, boredom might be causing you to become disengaged.

Consider falling back in love with your job by adding an additional service to your practice. Learning something new could help you feel inspired, while increasing practice revenue.

At some point in their career, many doctors feel a disconnect. Get out of your rut by having fun rediscovering the passion for the job you once had.

Up next: 5 signs it’s time to add a new provider at your healthcare practice

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