How can physicians reduce burnout? Try reading for pleasure

While burnout continues to be an issue among members of the healthcare profession, research indicates individuals can try picking up a book to find some relief, according to the American Medical Association.

AMA member Daniel Marchalik, MD, and his colleagues surveyed 2,500 physicians about topics like burnout, demographics, reading patterns and types of curricular offerings they had at their respective medical schools. Researchers discovered that reading can increase an individual's ability to feel empathy.

"What [the research shows] is those who read literary fiction actually performed better in theory of mind, which is actually a surrogate for measuring empathy. … [Reading] is moving the needle on what is probably the most difficult part of burnout to move the needle on, which is depersonalization," he said.

A second survey of 513 physicians found that the relative risk of burnout for consistent readers who read at least one book per month fell by 19 percent across emotional exhaustion and 44 percent across the depersonalization categories.

"Literature creates attention you really can't create through anything else. ... It creates a better connection to patients," said Dr. Marchalik, who also serves as the medical director of physician well-being at Columbia, Md.-based MedStar Health and director of ambulatory urologic surgery and medical education at MedStar Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center.

To access the full report, click here.

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