Physician burnout terms

5 Burnout Terminologies Every Physician Should Know About

Physician burnout is a pressing issue plaguing the medical field, affecting doctors across all specialties and practice settings. Recent research conducted by experts from the American Medical Association (AMA) indicates that an alarming 63% of American physicians have experienced burnout in the past few years. This finding underscores the urgent need to address this problem comprehensively. While there has been a slight decrease in burnout rates recently, there is still much work to be done to combat this pervasive issue.

As experts in the medical field, physicians are generally aware of the detrimental impact burnout can have on their overall well-being and their ability to provide optimal patient care. However, there are certain aspects and terminologies related to burnout that they may overlook or be unfamiliar with.

To effectively combat burnout, understanding these five terms can go a long way:

Clerical Burdens

One of the primary factors contributing to physician burnout is the overwhelming burden of clerical tasks, particularly those associated with electronic health records (EHRs). These tasks include phone call documentation, note completion, result review, and test ordering. A potential solution to alleviate this burden is to strengthen the administrative workforce of medical practices or consider integrating virtual medical assistants.


De-personalization is another characteristic of physician burnout that deserves attention. It refers to a state where physicians experience a lack of empathy or develop negative attitudes toward their patients, colleagues, and the medical profession. Needless to say, de-personalization can significantly compromise the quality of care physicians provide and negatively impact the treatment experience of their patients.

Imposter Phenomenon

The imposter phenomenon is a genuine concern for physicians. It manifests as a persistent feeling that one’s achievements are inadequate and that success is merely a result of luck rather than competence. Studies have indicated that doctors are more susceptible to experiencing it than other professionals. The mental strain associated with the imposter phenomenon can accelerate the odds of burnout and contribute to other adverse outcomes.

Moral Distress

Moral distress is another factor that adds to the burden physicians grapple with. Ethical dilemmas that conflict with their professional duties can arise and put them in a state of moral distress. In addition, policies and procedures that hinder a physician’s ability to provide optimal care can add to this turmoil. These internal struggles can negatively affect their emotional and mental well-being, potentially leading to burnout.

“Pajama Time”

A recent study by the AMA sheds light on the concept of “pajama time” among family physicians. It reveals that these physicians spend an average of 86 minutes performing administrative tasks at home or beyond their regular work hours, hence the name. This seemingly lighthearted term highlights a significant issue, as these extended work practices increase the risk of physician burnout.

As the medical field continues to struggle with staffing shortages and increasing administrative demands, physician burnout remains a problem for the healthcare industry. To effectively combat burnout, physicians must familiarize themselves with the various aspects and terminologies associated with it.

Understanding the impact of clerical burdens, de-personalization, imposter phenomenon, moral distress, and the bleeding of work into personal time can empower physicians to take proactive measures to prevent burnout and ensure the well-being of both themselves and their patients.