The two real reasons you’re stressed

Feeling stressed, burned out? As a physician, you might be surprised why

Paula S. Katz | September 27, 2015
Burnout- physician-stress

That annoying traffic jam isn’t causing your stress (though it isn’t making it any better). The real reasons behind your stress go much deeper.

According to Peter Moskowitz, MD, executive director, Center for Professional and Personal Renewal, Palo Alto, Calif., the top stressors for physicians are lack of control in the workplace and the increased micromanaging of work output.

Lack of control

Doctors don’t have the ability to set up their hours or schedules like they used to. “Physicians like to be in control, but we’ve lost control of our own practices,” Dr. Moskowitz says. “We’re now in an environment where we’re expendable resources.”

Dr. Moskowitz, a radiologist, says that in his specialty, institutions and large outpatient centers typically tell radiology groups to work 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. “Doctors don’t want 12-hour days,” he explains, “but the institution says take it or leave it.”

Today’s practice environment also means increasing pressure to see more patients in less time. When they’re told to see one patient every 10 minutes, it’s no surprise that primary care physicians in particular are feeling stress.


At the same time, a long list of organizations including insurers, large health care organizations, outpatient centers and private groups are all tracking RVUs, thus carefully monitoring physician output.

When doctors with the highest RVUs get bigger bonuses and more frequent or higher salary increases, everyone feels stressed out.

“It’s being used like a sledgehammer to motivate doctors to work faster,” Dr. Moskowitz says. “Doctors want to do well and be rewarded for their work, but it’s coming at the expense of being pushed too hard and working too fast.”

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