Physician burnout continues to grow in the medical community, which is why iScribeHealth has begun exploring how to diagnose this problem and understand the effects it can have. In this blog, we will discuss the various methods of treating burnout and a possible solution aimed at preventing this issue altogether.
The responsibility to treat physician burnout falls on three separate parties: the organization, the supervisors, and the individual. The recommendations we give in this blog cover parts of all three groups. It’s important to note however, that without assistance from each one, successfully treating or preventing burnout is unlikely.
How to Treat Physician Burnout
Acknowledge the problem
This step may seem obvious, but unless you’ve done your own research or spoken personally with someone suffering, it could be very difficult to acknowledge that this problem exists in all practices at all levels. Without a candid acceptance that you or others in your organization might be suffering from this, the three relevant parties — organization, supervisors, and individuals — cannot get together to solve it.
On the organizational side of things, supervisors need to build out processes to consistently assess if physicians are getting burned out. Those supervisors then must implement these processes, while the individual is tasked with looking out for himself and colleagues.
Restore work-life balance
For many physicians, this just simply may seem impossible. Work is life and life is work. But it doesn’t have to be. Work-life balance is an organizational responsibility. Most physicians, given their inherently altruistic nature, will over-work themselves to help patients. They would not have gone through a decade of intensive education if they didn’t firmly believe in this. So, that means it’s the organization’s responsibility to make sure physicians’ shifts are not too long, or there are enough support staff on duty at any given time.
For the individual, restoring work-life balance might include actively trying to get a reasonable amount of sleep per night, or spending more time with your family. It may seem simple, but restoring these small parts of ordinary routine can have exponential benefits.
Focus on the rewarding aspects of work and practicing self-care
What each individual finds rewarding as a physician differs. Physician leaders should engage their team asking what can be done to improve the organization as it pertains to each physician’s goals and professional development. This coaching can improve professional development and serve as a mentorship for those over-stressed.
For the individual, “Honest and regular self-calibration should be considered a core component of professionalism,” as stated by the Mayo Clinic. Improving one’s self-awareness can reduce burnout, through active mindfulness, cognitive behavioral techniques and finding purpose in one’s work. While a physician leader can help teach skills concerning self-awareness, the individual must be the one to exercise and develop them.
Increase time speaking to patients and other physicians
More face-to-face communication with patients has shown to have a positive impact on the mental health of physicians. When a closer relationship between the two exists, fewer errors are made, empathy grows in the physician and the odds of burnout decreases. An emphasis on communication training is one preventative measure organizations can take. These trainings would help physicians focus on the importance of introductions, collaboration with patients, reflective listening, and setting clear expectations.
Decrease time spent in front of EHR
As mentioned in a previous blog, the growing amount of time spent in front of a computer screen has exhausted physicians and become an unavoidable aspect of the job. However, recording patient information will always take priority. As an institution looking to implement organization-wide changes to combat the growing issue of physician burnout, consider investing in mobile EHR efficiency tools. These solutions get physicians away from their screens, allowing them to focus and communicate better with patients. While these apps won’t solve this crisis, it can alleviate a number of pains felt throughout the healthcare industry.
If you’d like to learn more about physician burnout, click here to watch a recorded webinar on the subject.