Physician burnout has become a national epidemic, with nearly half of all doctors reporting feeling it. A survey from Merritt Hawkins, conducted on behalf of The Physicians Foundation, found that 3 of 4 physicians (78%) report that they sometimes, often or always experience feelings of burnout. And it’s no wonder why. Physicians face long hours and grueling work weeks.
But there may be another factor contributing to physician burnout: taking too little vacation.
The 2018 Medscape Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report, which surveyed more than 15,500 doctors across the United States, found that a third of the physicians surveyed take just 2 weeks of annual vacation or less.
The full survey results showed the following average vacation times for doctors:
- 6% of physicians take less than 1 vacation week annually
- 27% of physicians take 1-2 weeks of vacation
- 49% of physicians take 3-4 weeks of vacation
- 11% of physicians take 5-6 weeks of vacation
- 7% take more than 6 weeks of vacation
Physicians work extremely long hours and are at risk of suffering from burnout. Taking the time for a little rest and relaxation can go a long way toward reducing stress levels.
Reduced stress levels: When you’re well-rested, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by stress.
Improved mood: Getting enough rest can help improve your mood and reduce irritability.
Increased energy: Vacations can help you come back feeling refreshed and ready to take on whatever challenges come your way.
Improved focus: When you’re well-rested, it’s easier to concentrate and be productive.
If physicians are struggling to find time for vacation, there are a few things they can do to make it a priority:
Schedule vacations in advance: Planning ahead can help you make sure you get the time off you need. Treat them as guaranteed days off and make sure that colleagues know you will be gone and unavailable.
Bring in help if needed: If you’re worried about taking time away from work, consider hiring a locum tenens physician or another medical professional to cover your practice while you’re gone.
Take a mini-vacation: If you can’t manage a full week away, consider taking a long weekend or even just a few days off. A mini-vacation can still provide the benefits of rest and relaxation. These short breaks will allow you to be their for your family events, or just have some good alone time.
Consider locum tenens: Locum tenens assignments will give you the opportunity to take vacations when you want, without having to worry about the repercussions at work. You’ll make your own schedule, and work where you want when you want with who you want. Locum tenens make it easy to take extended vacations between assignments.
If you’re a physician struggling with burnout, taking a vacation may be just what the doctor ordered. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider taking some time off to relax and rejuvenate. Your patients will benefit from a happier, healthier you.