The Importance of Addressing Medical Student Burnout


Any demanding endeavor results in a depletion of mental and physical energy. Whether you're starting a business or working full time while you go to school, you're bound to hit a wall at some point. Medical students know this better than almost anyone. A 2014 study found the training years for physicians result in the most burnout, which can lead to consequences as serious as suicidal ideation.

The good news is medical schools are aware of the problem and many institutions are stepping up efforts to mitigate student burnout. Read on to find out more about why it's important to address medical student burnout and what organizations can do to help.

[RELATED: Find out everything you need to know about medical student burnout.]

Addressing Burnout

The physical and mental exhaustion associated with burnout is troublesome for a number of reasons. The well-being of practitioners is at risk, and in turn, the quality of care offered to patients could be in jeopardy. It's important to address burnout in order to produce good doctors who can sustain in the profession. Students who enter medical school tend to have less depression and better quality of life than students in other fields -- but this is reversed by the second year of medical school. Addressing burnout early and often is imperative to stave off the depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness that too many medical students face.

Schools Addressing Burnout

Medical schools are stepping up to address the burnout of their students. At places like The University of Nebraska Medical Center and The University of Chicago, the leadership is introducing pass/fail grading for the first year and developing new wellness programs. Other schools are offering annual surveys to gauge a student's level of burnout. Some institutions are going so far as to equip students with biometric devices to help them monitor their stress levels. To effectively manage student burnout, schools need to help students avoid unnecessary stressors, find out where students are on the burnout spectrum, and then deliver resources.

Students can also take charge of their own health by implementing strategies for decreasing stress and managing pressure. Some of the commonly recommended ways to avoid burnout include journaling, making time for exercise, and seeking out support from other medical students.

Positive Outcomes

Helping medical students with burnout has several distinct benefits. Mitigating burnout means producing fewer people with depression and anxiety. Not only will individual students feel better when their burnout is addressed, but medical schools can produce doctors who are better able to serve their patients.

Addressing burnout may even mean producing more doctors in general. One study found that 11 percent of medical students surveyed said they had considered dropping out within the last year, and that signs of burnout predicted the likelihood that a student would consider leaving medical school. Similarly, students who are not performing well are more likely to drop out. By managing burnout, schools are helping students perform better and reducing their likelihood of leaving the profession.

Medical student burnout is common and serious. The associated symptoms include mental fragility and physical exhaustion, and the effects can ripple into every part of a student's life. With the help of medical school programs and peer support, students can overcome burnout and enter into the practice as healthy professionals.

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