According to a 2016 report, 42% of ophthalmologists were reportedly “extremely happy,” demonstrating that they fare better than their peers in other medical fields. However, ophthalmologists still experience stressors—most commonly financial—and burnout.
One study showed that the greatest correlation of unhappiness for surgeons was their perception of what percentage of their salary they lived on. Surgeons who believed they lived on 100% of their income had very low life satisfaction and happiness scores. In contrast, those who believed they lived on ≤50% had much higher scores.
Other common stressors leading to burnout include poor diet, not sleeping well, and lack of exercise and healthy relationships. Realizing these is easier said than done. To diagnosis the stress and burnout, you must make an observation of factors (eg, depression) and stress mitigation (eg, alcohol abuse), as well as personality shifts.
Treatment then involves setting limits, including reducing the number of patients seen or surgeries conducted in a day. Time limits are crucial to enforcing this treatment, such as limiting how many hours per day you’re working or giving yourself more breaks. However, it is important not to change too many things in a short time span.
Another treatment strategy is cultivating a support system, which can include family and friends and professionals (eg, counselor, psychologist). Practice administrators can also keep an ophthalmologist in check. In addition to providing a safe and trusting relationship, they can make it easier to initiate conversation about instances of stress and burnout and help create balance.
Ultimately, once stressors are identified, it is important to learn to anticipate changes—in and out of the office—and limit their amount depending on the amount of stress you can accept.
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