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The Signs and Symptoms of Physician Stress

Analysis  |  By Credentialing Resource Center  
   May 27, 2020

This stress can cause physicians to lose their passion for medicine, become cynical about the healthcare system, and become less humanistic.

A version of this article was first published May 27, 2020, by HCPro's Credentialing Resource Center, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.

Every physician has stress, but today’s physicians may have even more stress than when they started practicing. Along with newer pressures in recent years of financial obligations and an uncertain future, physicians are now dealing with the stress of practicing medicine during a pandemic. This stress and burnout will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Related: Two Kinds of Interventions Reduce Physician Burnout

This stress can cause physicians to lose their passion for medicine, become cynical about the healthcare system, and become less humanistic.

Physicians often feel that they cannot express their dissatisfaction with healthcare because they will be seen as weak. Instead, they often throw themselves so completely into treating their patients that they often cut themselves off from outside sources of stress relief, such as friends and family. The result is that physicians suffer terrible stress and become more susceptible to anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

Related: 'Similar to Times of War': The Staggering Toll of COVID-19 on Filipino Health Care Workers

Be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms of stress in your physicians:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Stomach and back problems
  • Serious fatigue
  • Memory deterioration
  • Reduced attention span and ability to concentrate
  • Reduction in organizational skills
  • Hostility
  • Personality changes
  • Increased use of alcohol and tobacco products
  • Increased number or work-related injuries and medical errors
  • Distancing oneself from patients (e.g., referring to patients by diagnoses instead of by names)

Related: 1-in-5 Docs Report COVID-19-related Pay Cuts, Furloughs

Editor’s note: The following was adapted from the HCPro book, Resident Well-Being: A Guide for Residency Programs.

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