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Burnout Is Aversion

04/06/2017

I regularly read articles about so-called physician burnout, and the pundits love to tell physicians how to avoid it or get it treated, but they fail to tell us what it is, and it does not appear as a mental disorder in ICD or DSM.

I believe burnout results from aversive conditioning.

Aversion results when a negative stimulus follows a behavior. I believe administrators, payers, regulators and even other medical providers regularly expose physicians to negative reinforcement as physicians try to practice their profession. Then they blame the physician. This unwanted behavior modification has led to the development of an aversion, and continued exposure increases the intensity of the aversion.

The answer lies not in mindfulness or meditation which just take more away from the physician’s leisure time, but in removing the negative stimuli and replacing them with positive stimuli like increased autonomy and respect.

What can you do to avoid inducing aversion in the physicians you know?