Today’s healthcare environment has created the perfect storm for medical professionals, driving unmanageable workloads and increasing rates of clinician burnout. When left unattended, high levels of stress and frustration leave clinicians exhausted and detached from their sense of purpose in the job. This does not bode well for prospective patients searching for a physician office.
Symptoms of burnout are really no different than the cases of exhaustion and depression clinicians treat every day. For this reason, combating clinician burnout has as much to do with incorporating daily self-care practices as it does managing the nonstop demands of this profession.
Rates of Clinician Burnout
Long work days, increasing paperwork demands, high student debt and little to no time for friends and family have resulted in exceedingly high-stress levels for those in the medical profession. Healthcare clinicians, including nurse practitioners, physicians, and physician assistants, are experiencing increasing rates of professional burnout with each passing year. A study appearing in Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows rates of physician burnout over the past 25 years with one out of every three doctors experiencing symptoms of burnout on any given day in the physician office. Study results also revealed more than 50 percent of physicians in the United States experience professional burnout today.
Individuals working as nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and other areas see similar effects. An estimated 46 percent of healthcare professionals reported experiencing symptoms of burnout in 2015 with primary care, emergency room and intensive care clinicians experiencing the highest rates. Not surprisingly, these apparent trends in the healthcare field can have widespread repercussions that negatively impact clinicians, patients, as well as the healthcare system as a whole.
Symptoms of Clinician Burnout
• Emotional exhaustion
• Clinical depression
• Feelings of depersonalization
• Inability to feel compassion for others
• Feelings of incompetence
• Loss of identity
6 Ways to Combat Clinician Burnout
Reducing and eliminating burnout requires clinicians to make a deliberate effort to manage the out-of-control areas of their lives. Steps in this processing center on regaining a sense of control over demanding work schedules, establishing stronger connections with colleagues and engaging in opportunities for growth and enrichment. Here are a handful of ways to combat clinician burnout in your daily life.
1. Stress Management Practices
The last thing on a prospective customers’ mind is the mental and emotional well-being of the clinicians that come up in the listings. Clinician burnout inevitably has a direct effect on the quality of patient care. Learning how to better manage daily stressors can go a long way towards improving your overall productivity and daily outlook.
Stress management practices involve developing ways to cope with stress and/or finding healthy outlets for pent-up emotions. Since different personality types will likely respond better to certain techniques, some trial and error are to be expected. Common coping methods for managing stress include:
• Listening to music
• Regular exercise
• Nature walks
• Mindfulness meditation
2. Empower Your Patients
Physicians, in particular, are tasked with the responsibility of preventing illness and restoring health. This can be a tall order, especially in cases of severe illness or uncooperative patients. Nonetheless, the mindset that comes with the role can predispose doctors to take on more than they can handle.
While the demands placed on medical providers is higher than it’s ever been, technology advances have made it possible for patients to take a more active role in their treatment outcomes. Rather than stuffing your work schedule with follow-up appointments, added paperwork, and phone calls, let wearable medical devices deliver vital patient information to your desktop or mobile. Also, these devices enable patients to track anything from heart rate to brain waves, which gives them a better sense of how their daily choices affect their health. By empowering your patients, you can take some of the workloads off yourself.
3. Employ a Value-Based Care Model in the Place of Fee-for-Service
Fee-for-service payment models focus on the number of services with quality of care concerns taking a backseat. Fee-for-service models encourage heavy workloads while at the same time limiting rewarding aspects of the job, such as compassion and personal connections. A value-based payment model rather rewards quality of care, which opens the door for clinicians to pull back on their work schedules and connect with their patients on a genuine level.
In this respect, a value-based care model allows clinicians to regain their sense of purpose and identity within their work roles. For parents or caregivers deciding the difference between a fee-for-service and value-based practice may well determine whether these potential patients become regulars. Considering the influence patient reviews can have on the bottom line, quality will ultimately become the determining factor regardless of the payment model used.
It’s not uncommon for clinicians, and especially physicians, to take on tasks that can be delegated or shared with other staff members. Trying to carry out clerical or data entry tasks while in the exam room with the patient requires double the effort while limiting the amount of time and attention patients receive. A team-oriented approach not only helps to reduce individual workloads but encourages a more connected work environment where clinicians share the heavier aspects of a practice’s workload.
5. Manage EHR Documentation Demands
Requirements for EHR (electronic health records) account for a good amount of the stress and overwork experienced in the physician office. Rather than complete these tasks at the end of the workday or, worse yet, at home, clinicians may want to consider incorporating designated times for completing EHR records in the daily schedule. Another approach may entail changing the length of patient visits to accommodate the work time these tasks require.
Burnout tends to create a mindset that clouds a person’s ability to acknowledge growing feelings of emotional or physical exhaustion. Making a determined effort to attend to your own needs on an ongoing basis offers the best defense against clinician burnout. Self-monitoring practices (not unlike the ones clinicians advise their patients to do) can help in identifying when stress levels are too high so you can take appropriate steps to regroup.
Medical providers specialize in helping people take better care of their health and well-being. Ultimately, combating clinician burnout will require you to practice what you preach.
Last modified: August 20, 2018