3 Steps to Counteract Physician Burnout

A recent study published in Annals of Family Medicine calls attention to a glaring issue within primary care—physician burnout. If you’re among those physicians who are currently experiencing job burnout—thanks to longer hours, greater demands on your time, and more administrative and regulatory requirements—you’re not alone.

Citing another study that discovered that more than half of general internists and family physicians have symptoms of burnout, the researchers looked at various innovations that a number of primary care practices have put in place to improve the work environment. In turn, these changes have restored a feeling of joy in the world of medicine.

There are plenty of possible solutions to help you manage stress and increase your level of fulfillment at the office. Here are three ways to get moving in the right direction:

1. Take Teamwork to the Next Level

Collaboration, when done in an efficient and effective manner, can lighten your load and boost job satisfaction across the board. In fact, the recent Annals of Family Medicine report found that a role transformation for medical assistants resulted in a variety of positive effects within the specific practices they studied. For instance, “At the North Shore Physicians Group (NSPG) in Boston, the medical assistant’s role was expanded to ensure adherence to clinical guidelines on preventive and chronic illness care. The patient “rooming” process increased in time from three minutes to eight minutes and was expanded to include medication review, agenda setting and form completion. The medical assistant reviews health-monitoring reminders, gives patient immunizations, and sets up appointments for mammograms and other necessary testing.”

Beyond a 14 percent improvement in NSPG’s physician satisfaction scores, a number of the practices that took part in this study reported increases in the number of daily patient visits and practice revenue amounts as a result of implementing this simple change.

Take a look at the functions of your staff members and figure out where responsibilities could be redistributed, as medical assistants, registered nurses, and others may be able to take on an expanded role. Making such a change would not only free up more time for you to interact one on one with your patients, but also develop the skills of your staff members, allowing them to be more fully engaged, fulfilled, and empowered on the job.

2. Make Communication Processes and Workflow More Efficient

With the emergence of electronic health records (EHRs), which are designed to improve and streamline daily operations, doctors have been taking on additional, albeit tedious, responsibilities throughout the transition time, including the additional handling of paperwork, prescription renewals, and other external communications. At the same time, communication and other processes within doctors’ offices have become more complex.

Consider whether staff members can take over some of the administrative tasks and decrease your workload. Or how you could simplify the various systems in your office to make your workflow run more smoothly. Perhaps reorganizing the workstations, implementing standardized processes, or hosting regularly scheduled staff meetings would do the job.

3. Commit to Self-Care

Your day-to-day focus is most likely on your patients, your staff, your family—everyone except yourself. Beyond improving your work environment, it’s important to see what kinds of lifestyle changes you can make for the sake of your own health, as well as your personal life.

Go back to the basics by setting aside time for adequate sleep, exercise, relaxation, and personal relationships. Think about why you were called to practice medicine in the first place, and find ways to restore that aspect to the forefront of your days. If you feel it would be beneficial for you to seek some outside help, consider possible solutions such as peer support groups, insightful books, professional therapy, and other resources.

Regardless of what you decide to try, keep in mind that burnout affects more than just your own health and experiences. Physician burnout is linked to a decrease in patient satisfaction and lower levels of adherence to treatment plans, as well as medical students’ avoidance to choosing primary care careers.

For your sake and the sake of the people you interact with every day, look at the steps you can take to instill more joy into your workplace. If a patient were to come to you exhibiting symptoms of job burnout, you’d probably encourage him or her to try a variety of wellness practices and stress management techniques. So physician, heal thyself.

 

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