Topics: Practice Management
At some point or another, everyone experiences stress at work. Whatever the reason, left unaddressed, it can certainly lead to physician burnout.
As if causing overwhelm and anguish on an individual weren’t bad enough, this type of ailment affects everything around them — their families, their colleagues, support staff, and patients.
In addition, physician burnout results in approximately $4.6 billion in losses every single year, due to turnover and reduced service hours.
- What Constitutes Burnout in Healthcare?
- Signs of Physician Burnout
- 5 Ways to Fight Burnout and Protect Physician Mental Health
What Constitutes Burnout in Healthcare?
Healthcare burnout refers to sustained stress for an extended timeframe. It can be caused by a constant fast pace, complicated patients, poor patient outcomes (and having to notify their families), and staff shortages. To add insult to injury, they often have little time to dedicate to personal life and to their families — which leads to even more stress.
Signs of Physician Burnout
Everyone handles stress differently. However, there are several symptoms that are common denominators when a healthcare worker is experiencing burnout. The most common ones include:
- Getting sick with more frequency than usual
- Sleeping difficulties
- Dreading going to work
- Lack of motivation
- An inability to focus
- Losing temper easily
- Feeling constantly sad
- Experiencing symptoms of depression
- Feeling detached from patients
It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s not just physicians who experience burnout within a healthcare setting. Residents, interns, nurses, and support staff often also undergo these symptoms — especially when working long hours, being short staffed, dealing with payer reimbursements, or as is the case with most recent events, a worldwide pandemic.
5 Ways to Fight Burnout and Protect Physician Mental Health
There are several ways that healthcare facilities can be proactive to help prevent burnout among its employees.
Remember They're HumanFirst and foremost, always keep at the forefront of your mind that healthcare workers and support staff are not robots. It doesn’t matter how busy the hospital is. It doesn’t matter how much you want to put profits at the top of your priorities. If workers’ health is being affected, it needs to be acknowledged, addressed, and corrected. Failing to do so will only result in a high turnover rate, higher incidences of depression, and an unengaged staff. None of this helps your clinic — and ultimately affects patients.
Integrate Employee Health and Wellness into Your CultureIf your physicians aren’t doing well, your patients are going to suffer the consequences. Make it a priority to find out how you can address their concerns. If you know you’re understaffed, hire as soon as practically possible. If there’s a supplies shortage, look for alternative ways to get a faster delivery. Make sure everyone on staff gets enough time off to rest. Provide an area for physicians and nurses to relax — including a place where they can sleep when they’re on-call.
Reduce Administrative HurdlesTaking care of patients’ health, saving lives, and staying on top of regulatory compliance is taxing enough. Requiring endless paperwork and authorizations for the most minute of details is extremely vexing and burdensome. It’s also one of the most common complaints among physicians nationwide. While there’s nothing that can be done about industry regulations, it may be possible to revise hospital procedures to make things easier and more efficient for everyone.
Integrate Flexibility into SchedulesThe nature of the profession doesn’t exactly allow for hospitals and medical practices to just shut their doors periodically to let physicians to rest. However, there are ways to incorporate a modicum of flexibility into their schedules. For example, in cases where telehealth is feasible, allowing them to conduct the consults remotely. The same applies for physicians and other healthcare professionals who are clearly overburdened and look like they would benefit from taking some time off.
Provide Mental Health ResourcesThis line of work exposes physicians, PAs, and nurses to a lot of heavy scenarios. There’s constant bad news, treatment that doesn’t work as well as hoped for, and patients passing away. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these realities exponentially. Healthcare professionals should receive all the support necessary to help them navigate such issues. The American Medical Association (AMA) has compiled a list of helpful tools that can serve as a starting point, such as a free two-year subscription to meditation and mindful app, Headspace, and an appendix of mental and behavioral health resources.
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