- The rate of physician dissatisfaction is steadily rising. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of physicians that would not choose a career in medicine if given the opportunity to decide again increased by 15% (Adams). This discontentment has major repercussions in the midst of the rising need for physicians: it is estimated that by 2025, there will be a physician deficit of 90,000 (Bernstein). One reason for the increasing dissatisfaction is burnout, which physician Richard Gunderman defines as “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of accomplishment.” Although Gunderman identifies the etiology of dissatisfaction, he fails to characterize burnout and explain where and why this phenomenon occurs. In this paper, I use Raymond Williams’ theory on “structures of feeling” as a lens to identify the characteristics and etiology of burnout. Williams proposes emotions serve as a “cultural hypothesis, actually derived from attempts to understand such elements and their connections in a generation or period” that should be explored as they are lived and felt instead of being converted into finished products (1289). Using his arguments to navigate Sandeep Jauhar’s memoirs Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation and Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician, I conclude that writing helps doctors articulate and confront their anxieties when coping mechanisms prescribed by the dominant culture fail. Using Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone to renegotiate the geographic borders of this study to encompass eastern and western medicine, I conclude that although stress may be inherent to the profession, the environment physicians are placed in heavily contributes to whether or not they become burnt out.
Key Words: burnout, etiology of burnout, medical hegemony, physician dissatisfaction,