August: Strategies to Avoid Burnout
While many physicians struggle with burnout, there are a number of physicians practicing in a way that is both satisfying and fulfilling to them. These physicians:
Reduce workload. Share workload among all staff members by shifting workflow, communicating with other professionals, and utilizing new technologies. While electronic health records (EHRs) are a major source of frustration for many physicians, the most satisfied physicians use EHRs with interfaces that match clinical workflow, utilize the skills of other professionals, and focus on the positives of EHRs—such as their ability to expedite information sharing, increase communication between patients and providers, and increase access to patient information.
Find reward in practice. Identify and define your values to connect with the reasons you chose to pursue medicine as a profession. Connect with other physicians to combat isolation. Physicians report higher levels of workplace satisfaction when they can choose their own colleagues and coworkers, and these connections contribute to finding reward in practice.
Provide high-quality medical treatment. When physicians feel they are meeting the needs of their clients, they are more likely to feel successful and connected to their patients and the world around them.
Practice self-care. Create work-life balance by using mindful self-awareness, practicing self-compassion, and experiencing sincere empathy. Many physicians report feeling tension between fulfilling patient care duties, maintaining a manageable workday, and achieving a balance between their work and home lives. By being mindful of their actions and compassionate to their own needs, physicians can achieve the balance they seek.
Are positive in their thinking. Make use of cognitive reappraisal skills, positive self-talk, and reframing when faced with a negative situation. Positive self-talk, or the act of noticing and responding to negative messages that we automatically tell ourselves, has a moderating effect on overall negative mental frameworks.
Use mental training techniques. Create a practice of gratitude and appreciation.
Physicians tend to have a difficult time paying attention to their needs. This is likely a result of a confluence of factors, including the tendency to focus on the needs of the patient, a high need for achievement driving physicians to work long hours at a fast pace, or low energy after working a long day. Whatever the reason, physicians who go out of their way to meet their own needs report being happier and healthier themselves, and able to provide higher quality care to their patients.
Friedberg, M.W., Chen, P.G., Van Busum, K.R., Aunon, F.M., Pham, C., Caloyeras, J.P, Mattke, S., Pitchforth, E., Quigley, D.D., Brook, R.H., Croson, F.J., & Tutty, M. (2013). Factors affecting physician professional satisfaction and their implications for patient care, health systems, and health policy.
Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR400/RR439/RAND_RR439.pdf
Nedrow, A., Steckler, N.A., & Hardman, J. (2013). Physician resilience and burnout: Can you make the switch? Family Practice Management. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2013/0100/p25.html.
Shanafelt, T.D., Kaups, K.L., Nelson, H., Satele, D.V., Sloan, J.A., Oreskovich, M.R., & Drybye, L.N. (2014). An interactive individualized intervention to promote behavioral change to increase personal well-being in US surgeons. Annals of Surgery, 259 (1), 82-88.
Sinksy, C.A., Willard-Grace, R., Schutzbank, A.M., Sinksy, T.A., Margolius, D., & Bodenheimer, T. (2013). In search of joy in practice: A report of 23 high-functioning primary care practices. Annals of Family Medicine, 11: 272-278.
Weight, C.J., Sellon, J.L., Lessard-Anderson, C.R., Shanafelt, T.D., Olsen, K.D., & Laskowski, E.R. (2013). Physical activity, quality of life, and burnout among physician trainees: The effect of a team-based, incentivized exercise program. Mayo Clinical Proceedings, 88(12): 1435-1442.
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. BHWP experts will provide monthly web posts and encourage CMS members to provide feedback to shape the development of the toolkit. Above is the fourth in the series. Log in and post your comments on this month’s feature in the space below. And go to www.cms.org/resources/category/physician-wellness to view others in the series.