Primary care doctors on burnout, job stress

Primary care doctors on burnout, job stress

We’ve been talking about a lot of post-COVID burnout in the healthcare system. This includes staffing shortages and heavy workload.

This isn’t just inside the hospitals, but it’s inside primary care offices too.

News10NBC spoke with a local doctor who recently resigned from her job, working for a major local health employer in the area.

Dr. Kerry Graff described why she decided to work in primary care, in the first place.

“I loved working with kids, I liked working with adults, working with whole families, I liked delivering babies,” Graff said. “Family practice allowed me to do a little bit of everything, which I really liked.”

She said the industry has changed over the years, and the pandemic worsened it. Graff said about 75-80% percent of the patients who came in, had three or more chronic medical problems. That percentage used to be significantly lower.

“So you’re seeing a lot fewer patients, but you’re dealing with a lot more problems,” Graff said.

On top of that, a 60-hour work week is considered normal, she said, and her employer required a patient panel size of over 2,000.

Graff worked for a major hospital system in the area, at a family practice. She recently resigned to work for a telehealth company, and said the move came after realizing the work expectations were too high.

“When you’re working for a hospital system, and 70-some percent of physicians now are working for big hospital systems, we’ve really given up a lot of our control for what our practice looks like,” she said.

She said another trend right now, is doctors leaving practices for concierge medicine. That’s where patients pay a monthly or annual subscription to get easier access to a provider, and the provider has fewer patients. There’s no monthly insurance premium.

Dr. Michael Mendoza, primary care doctor and Monroe County Health Commissioner, explained: “That person may have more time, more availability to answer your concerns — to some patients, to a lot of patients, that is desirable.”

It happened at the Linden Medical Group in Penfield a few weeks ago, when five doctors left the group suddenly. A few of those for concierge medicine. None of those doctors have agreed to an interview.

Mendoza doesn’t believe this will become a larger trend, but said he isn’t surprised doctors are exploring alternative options.

“In our healthcare system, to get all the things we need to get done, as patients and consumers, we just don’t have enough primary care doctors in this country,” he said. “As things change, we adapt as best as we can, we all just want to do a good job for our patients. I think that’s the bottom line.”

For Graff, it was not an easy or painless choice to make.

“I had to let go of doing primary care, and I have patients I had to let go of, from 27 years — that’s heartbreaking,” she said.

Mendoza said while the healthcare system is seeing major staffing shortages nationwide, Rochester has an efficient system compared to other cities he has worked in, such as Chicago and San Francisco.