Burnout among physicians is on the rise and, unfortunately, it shows no signs of slowing down. According to Medscape’s 2017 Physician Lifestyle Report, physician burnout has increased by 25 percent in just four years. In 2013, the overall rate was 40 percent; today, it has risen to 51 percent. If not carefully addressed, it may lead to negative mental health effects such as depression and compassion fatigue as well as increased medical error rates, heightened malpractice risk and physician turnover, states Tamara Rosin, Assistant Managing Editor at Becker’s Hospital Review.
Today, there are a variety of factors that often contribute to physician burnout. It includes an excessive workload, inefficiency in the practicing environment, a loss of control over work, problems with work-life integration, and/or a loss of meaning in work, experts say.
Though burnout is a growing concern in the healthcare field, many doctors feel their leaders are not actively seeking ways to treat or prevent it from worsening. Here are three best practices you should consider to address physician burnout at your healthcare organization.
1. Create a Positive Workplace
One type of fix is to make sure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities try to create better working environments for happier doctors, suggests Art Caplan, PhD, Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, in a Medscape article. This might include offering yoga classes, mindfulness training, having more therapists to talk to, encouraging people to come forward when they feel distressed, or even designate a space doctors can escape to when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, for example, refurbished a dining room to create a wellness center, along with a “reset room” to give physicians some breathing room when they’re stressed. Creating a positive workplace where staff feel appreciated and cared for can help employees feel happier, be more productive, and hopefully stay longer at their job.
2. Foster Collaboration
One of the biggest challenges physicians often face is admitting they’re burnt out. However, to overcome burnout, physicians and administrators must work together to mitigate the effects of the internal and external factors that are driving high burnout rates among physicians. Ignoring the problem can produce a toxic working environment, affect patient safety, and send them in search for a new doctor/hospital—tarnishing your brand and reputation.
Liz Ferron, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who provides stress training, change management and conflict resolution to healthcare professionals, recommends looking for solutions together. She shared how her organization gathered a small, mixed group of doctors and nurses and asked them about the stresses they face, what nurses need to know about the physicians, and how nurses could be more helpful to doctors and vice versa. “There was an immediate impact of increased trust. They came from different training and had different personality types, but now they understood one another,” Ferron says.
3. Solicit Input and Feedback
Though physicians are at the frontline when it comes to patient care, very few are actually included in the operational, strategic and financial decisions regarding how to evaluate and improve care. Barbara R. Paul, Senior Healthcare Advisor at Morgan Samuels, a leading retained executive search firm, recommends asking physicians for their help in framing projects, discussing goals, and comparing data. Paul explains how to accomplish these best practices in a HealthTrust article:
- Choose the right words from the beginning. Frame the project so that it’s clear how it will make a difference in patient care.
- Discuss goals and milestones upfront. Divide the project into parts so that everyone can watch the progress. Create a written action plan of interim outcomes that can be physically marked off as they’re completed.
- Bring good data. Physicians are generally objective when using good comparison data and criteria.
While physician burnout is on the rise, healthcare organizations have a real opportunity to empower physicians to provide quality patient care while addressing this growing concern. How do you prevent physician burnout at your healthcare facility?