Physician Burnout

by Dan Osterweil, MD, FACP, CMD

Reflecting on the increase in physician burnout and attrition and my own struggle to balance the Industrialization of medicine with the old person-focused compassion, I stumbled upon this article in WSJ,  When Doctors Stop ‘Seeing’ Patients By Abraham M. Nussbaum, which resonated with me by a physician lamenting the loss of humanity from the practice of medicine. I am inspired by the quote of the last line of the Hippocratic Oath: "May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help". He believes, as do I, that "finest tradition of physician physician's calling are those moments when we look patients in the eyes, understand their pain and anxiety and help the resolve, relieve or endure it." That means not staring at the computer screen while talking to our patient in distress and saying everything is fine, but rather listening to the patient's concern who may be far removed from the numbers on the screen."

I am honored and feel lucky to be working for organizations that put a high value on human aspirations such as preserving health, independence and dignity. It is a reminder why CALTCM has inscribed on its "flag" to focus on bringing humane, competent care to our frailest. Our annual meeting in April has put a spotlight on our values. In hindsight, even the least well-received presentation in the whole conference that focused on negative impressions of post-acute and long-term care, was useful because it reminds us that there is a crowd out there that needs our help, to be a role model and a guide how to deliver competent and compassionate care to our frailest. CALTCM Leadership Awardee Dr. Karl Steinberg personified in his keynote lecture (Having the "Talk") the importance of spending the time to look patients and their family members in the eye, listen to their pain and concerns, and act with compassion.