McMaster University

Demystifying Medicine
Seminar Series

Greg Curnew talks about physician burnout and the rewards of being a doctor

[Dr. Greg Curnew is a practicing physician and an associate clinical professor of cardiology and general internal medicine at McMaster University.]

After 30 years I am grateful to be a physician and feel it is the best job in the world. I am constantly learning and reading, from local medical conferences to international events. 

I really enjoy working with my patients and my community. However, it involves a large time commitment. We use a multiple EMR (electronic medical records) system that takes time to learn and that does not work in harmony with other systems.

We have put a lot of effort to help patients understand their medical conditions and become active partners in their health. The vast majority cannot find the time to be truly healthy.

There are many rewards and challenges for the doctors of tomorrow.

Doctors are dedicated, empathetic, caring and reliable. They also need to be available for their patients in times of need.

In addition, we as a group have been working on cardiology books as well as participating in research projects and community events.

You can never commit  too much time  to your patients. The doctors of tomorrow need skills beyond patient care. The pressures of daily practice have increased. Physicians need to be versed on how to run a small business. Patients are becoming more complicated and expectations are higher than ever and at times unrealistic. Payers, such as private insurance companies and governments, have added complexities, asking for more with less. Traditionally, doctors have worked in their separate offices, but now sick patients often require multiple subspecialist care as well as support from non-physician allied services, which are complex to navigate. More teamwork is essential. The pricing of newer medications make it impossible to give the best care to the majority of patients. Hospitals were once places where patients would be investigated and cared for but are now more like institutions or corporations that take pride in every early discharge.

Despite all of these changes, I can’t think of a better job. I’m constantly learning and get to work with young minds that make medicine a better place. Long term relationships with patients have been the best part of the journey. This is not a job but a profession, a passion that requires more work than you think. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve and hopefully make a difference. 

I encourage you to try and make this planet a healthier place. You are welcome to join us at our patient support "LIFE" group meetings. You can also obtain a monthly newsletter by registering at my website, Dr. Curnew’s Health Corner, and view the health videos on my YouTube channel

The best definition of a healthcare provider is an individual who derives satisfaction and pleasure from helping others without any personal gain. 

When I started medical practice, there was no such thing as burnout.

Please also read this article by Jeffrey Bendix in Medical Economics:

The real reason docs burn out