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Avoiding Burnout in the Age of High Volume and High-Stress Optometry




Avoiding Burnout in the Age of High Volume and High-Stress Optometry

THE PACE OF HEALTHCARE has changed. Doctors are tasked with seeing more patients in less time. Additionally, performance is evaluated by productivity goals that often hinge on a more is more model. As insurance reimbursements continue to decrease, we see the proliferation of high-volume optometry where clinicians see double to triple the amount of patients typically seen in traditional private practice settings.

What is burnout? Burnout is a result of chronic stress which manifests in psychological and physiological ways. Common symptoms include emotional and physical exhaustion, cynicism, a feeling of being overwhelmed, a lack of connection to your work, and decreased performance and productivity. Long-term burnout can have more serious consequences including chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Burnout can also negatively affect patient care and professional success. A 2016 study of physicians at the Mayo Clinic found burnout and declining job satisfaction to be directly correlated with decreased professional effort and oftentimes a move to part-time employment. We see this same shift in optometry as burned out clinicians turn over or decrease their number of practicing days thus limiting patients’ access to care.

This type of optometry is here to stay as we deal with a growing population, reimbursement factors beyond our control, and large optometry student loan debt. However, we can be smart about avoiding burnout in a high-volume setting.

Know The Warning Signs

Recognizing early stages of burnout is key. Are you becoming emotionally exhausted? Are you becoming more tense, worried, or irritable with your patients and staff? Do you dread going to work or find yourself becoming cynical? These feelings are early warning signs of burnout. Confront them at the onset by reconnecting with your “why” and what drew you to your setting. Maybe gaining clinical experience is your main objective or the increased pay is helping you tackle financial goals. Shifting to this larger perspective creates an emotional shift and helps stop burnout.


Discover Your Prime Productivity Hours

It’s imperative to be efficient with your time. We are all uniquely wired and have different hours for peak productivity. Based on your natural rhythm, learn when you function best and look for a job that fits within those. Don’t be afraid to talk to your boss about changing hours to be more beneficial for you and the practice. Burnout is more likely to occur when you’re operating against your natural rhythm.

Optimize Your Energy

In high-volume settings it is common to feel emotionally and physically drained. Offset this by paying attention to your lack of energy, one of the body’s physical symptoms of burnout. Focus on keeping your energy high by eating right, working out regularly, getting enough rest, and investing time in a hobby. High level functioning requires high levels of energy. Burnout depletes your internal battery and it’s your job to recharge daily so you aren’t operating at an energy deficit.

Know Your Limits

If your current mode of practice is causing burnout you can’t shake, perhaps it’s time to consider switching to a more sustainable environment. Not everyone has the stamina to practice in a high volume setting and your health is more important than a paycheck. The beauty of optometry lies in the variety. It’s possible to create the perfect job for yourself where you feel competent, supported and healthy.



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