Acknowledging physician burnout

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 11:27 AM
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CMS aims to give physicians wellness tools for 2014

Kate Alfano, CMS contributing writer

Health care professionals are more susceptible to burnout than workers in any other industry. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed 30 to 40 percent of physicians experience burnout. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Academic Psychiatry showed 50 percent of residents met burnout criteria with various specialties reporting greater instances; the top three were obstetrics/gynecology at 75 percent, internal medicine at 63 percent and neurology at 63 percent. Family medicine had the most favorable burnout rate at 27 percent.

Perhaps most disturbing, a 2007 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that 47 percent of medical students already exhibit symptoms of burnout and 49 percent exhibit depressive symptoms. And a separate study from 2010 showed that 10 percent of medical students have suicidal ideation.

It is for these reasons and more that the Colorado Medical Society and its Expert Panel on Physician Wellness have taken on the goal of improving physician wellness and reducing burnout in 2014. A crucial partner in the effort are the experts at the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, who will develop a toolkit over the next year specifically tailored to physicians to address the eight dimensions of wellness with a focus on stress and burnout.

“There are a variety of protective practices that physicians can integrate into their daily routine to not only prevent burnout but also create fulfilling professional and personal lives,” said Chad Morris, PhD, director of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program.

BHWP comprises a multifaceted group of experts from a range of professions. This team travels around the country presenting behavioral change strategies tailored to various groups.

“While physicians often possess education about healthy living, knowledge isn’t enough,” said Cindy Morris, PsyD, BHWP clinical director. “Whether they have five minutes or an hour to dedicate to their self-care, physicians need practical wellness strategies that fit into their busy schedules.”

In addition to the toolkit, the BHWP team will provide monthly segments to be posted in the physician wellness section of The resources will allow for CMS member comments to shape its focus throughout the year. Also in the works is an “ambassador program,” where practices can designate a physician wellness champion who would receive training on good wellness traits to take back to colleagues, and a larger CME activity to be presented at an upcoming conference.

As 2014 gets rolling, CMS encourages members to utilize these wellness resources and consider the implications of burnout in their professional and personal lives. Visit to access these resources and to learn more.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Initiatives | Physician Wellness


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