Burned out? Don’t give up on medicine. There’s a different way to practice that’s better for you and your patients.

Overwhelmed Provider

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the healthcare industry. There was a healthcare staffing shortage prior to the pandemic, and now workers are experiencing even more burnout and reflecting on what’s important in their personal and professional lives.

Healthcare workers, including physicians, are quitting medicine in what may be record numbers. 18% quit their jobs during the pandemic and among those healthcare workers who kept their jobs, 31% are considering leaving.

Physicians often cite frustrations with the current healthcare system and lack of fulfillment with the state of medical practice today. If you work in healthcare, you probably know physicians who have retired or are planning to retire from medicine to try something different and get out of clinical practice.  I’ve also spoken to a number of providers who have re-evaluated their income needs and options in hopes of maintaining a better quality of life.

Physician autonomy is eroding as insurance companies, big pharma, and some large health systems take over more and more control of patient care. Many private physician-owned practices have been consumed by larger corporate-owned health systems, and physicians are increasingly beholden to the requirements and approvals of insurers who continue to chip away at physicians’ relationships with their patients.

Physicians who are employed by large hospitals and health systems are often required to see an inordinately high volume of patients – 25-30+ per day – sometimes more. This model forces physicians to cram a full primary care visit into 10-20 minutes which often includes documenting the encounter in the EMR too. Physicians are exhausted, and patients feel unheard as they’re shuffled through a cold office filled with strangers, including a physician who doesn’t know them.

What if there is a better way to practice?

A rapidly growing community of clinicians are discovering the vast benefits of integrative and functional medicine.

Here is what Functional Medicine physicians are saying about this growing approach to root-cause care. This is from Rob Downey, MD, IFMCP:

“The things that attract physicians to functional medicine also happen to be basically the same list as the benefits to patients:

1) The use of medications as a last resort, rather than a first line treatment for non-urgent clinical situations, 

2) The common sense of looking for root causes that are now very well validated scientifically, and safe to tackle with functional medicine specialty testing, lifestyle and supplements,

3) The clinical outcomes out-of-proportion to expected in clinical medicine.  Functional medicine patients simply do better, whether they experience reversal of their conditions, or a more satisfying disease management plan, 

4) Last, the compatibility of functional medicine with other healing traditions, it can dovetail very well with almost any other legitimate approach out there.”

Any approach that is beyond what is taught in medical schools and residency programs is often viewed as illegitimate, unfounded, or in opposition to conventional Western medicine.

However, functional medicine, as taught and certified by reputable associations such as the Institute of Functional Medicine, is based on science, evidence, medicine, and biology. Therefore, functional medicine builds upon, and dovetails with conventional medical training, whether you’re an MD, DO, PharmD, NP, PA, or other type of licensed, certified practitioner or clinician.

More from Dr. Downey, who is board certified in Family Medicine, and practiced family medicine for about six years before obtaining his training and certification in Functional Medicine, which he has practiced for about 15 years:

“I think the conventional training (in Family Medicine) makes me good at recognizing, and understanding, the deep underpinnings of disease. Conventional training also does what I think is a great job of teaching me how to recognize threats to patients, science-driven strategies to improve outcomes and mission-critical tactics for life-saving modalities, when they are called for.  Functional medicine is just so much more!

I think it’s the perfect adjunct toolbox to conventional training, in that it opens radical new domains of how to understand the root causes of chronic problems, along with novel strategies that routinely result in outcomes beyond what is considered expected in conventional medicine.

If you are a physician who is burned out and unable to provide the resources and time to improve your patients’ health outcomes, it may be time for a new practice approach. And you won’t need to leave medicine after all.

Functional Medicine is a personalized approach that allows more time with patients and provides resources to get to the root cause of illness as well as educate on treatment and prevention. It’s Personalized Medicine that’s more conducive to caring for the chronically ill, especially, and restoring health in all patients. It improves the lives of your patients; the way medicine was intended.

Not sure where to begin to launch your career in Personalized Medicine? We make it easy with our comprehensive 5 step guide to getting educated and connected in Integrative and Functional Medicine.

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