“Burnout is everywhere, but you can’t fight an enemy unless you recognize it,” says Dr. Drummond, consultant and author on the subject of physician burnout. One out of every three physicians has experienced burnout through certain points of their careers. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic, 54.4% of physicians report at least 1 symptom of burnout. Although this is such a relevant problem, stress management and burnout prevention training are not commonly offered in medical school or residency training.
So what is “burnout” exactly?
Defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, burnout is a long term stress reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, lack of efficacy and a lack of the sense of personal accomplishment. Instead of finding the same sense of challenge and enjoyment in their work, individuals find themselves keeping their heads down, churning through the work and taking their days one at a time. It is a common occurrence in individuals with demanding jobs or with the responsibility to care for others. There are many causes of physician burnout, with the top five being: family responsibilities, time pressure, chaotic environment, low control of pace and the use of electronic health records. Physicians tend to fare better in organizations where they are not compensated for individual productivity, are not under time stress, have more control over clinical issues, and are able to balance family life with their work.
Burnout is directly linked to a list of undesirable consequences that affect both physicians and patients. These consequences include:
- Increase in medical error rates and malpractice risk
- Lower patient satisfaction and care quality
- Early physician retirement and staff turnover
How can physician burnout be avoided or solved?
Weʻve summarized our top three favorites of Dr. Drummond’s, “The Eight Ways to Lower Practice Stress and Get Home Sooner” below:
Learn From and Become an EHR Power User
EHRʻs are evolving and can sometimes be tricky. Invest some time into really understanding your system from a “power user” or another physician who is handling the system with ease. If you need help identifying an individual, ask your nurses or ask your EHR vendor to connect you with one. Simply watching them charting and taking notes on their process can help improve your learning very quickly.
Huddle With Your Team Daily
Huddle with your team twice a day to anticipate needs and problems and then to review what could have been done differently that day. Be sure to keep these meetings quick and concise, having standing meetings may help this process. Be sure to have the dayʻs schedule in hand and brief your team on what they should do with certain repeated problems that arise, such as open appointment slots.
Embrace Batch Processing
Take all non-urgent tasks that you find yourself doing and put them into one pile. Process this pile twice a day when you and your team have the time to address them all at once. Some good times to do this are 11:30am and 4:30pm. To prepare for this system, identify what items you should batch, the little things that interrupt your day repeatedly but can be held off for a couple of hours.
Other suggestions include getting outdoors, mindfulness exercises, aerobic exercises, and Balint sessions. However, the most immediately effective suggestions are stress management courses. In a study done on the effectiveness of stress management courses, it was proven that the work-related stress levels of participants significantly decreased, while their general well-being and quality of life improved over a period of 12 weeks following the course’s administration. It was also concluded that a single, all-day, stress management workshop given to medicine and pediatric residents alleviated their emotional exhaustion for as long as 6 weeks after the course.
On days busy while taking care of others, it can be easy to forget to care for yourself. Try the tips above and let us know your thoughts! Did they work well for you, and if not, what would you recommend to your fellow physicians?