It is a well documented fact that Physician Burnout is continually creeping up as a silent antagonist in the healthcare industry.
While 1 in 4 people in the United States have a diagnosable mental health condition, a vast majority of physicians neglect to seek out the mental health care they need for a multitude of reasons - one of the biggest being fear of stigma or discrimination.
As this serious issue becomes more prevalent among practicing healthcare professionals, let’s take a look at what exactly is happening and what we can do to help lessen the impact on practitioners.
What is Physician Burnout?
Most Americans suffer from at least one mental disorder, and it can be easy to forget that this includes the healthcare workers who take care of us when we’re suffering.
According to the Agency for Health Research and Quality, “Burnout is a long-term stress reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of sense of personal accomplishment.”
So, now that we know what the symptoms of Physician Burnout are, let’s take a look at some of the factors that cause it.
5 Main Causes
- The Struggle to Find Work-Life Balance
- Chaotic Workplace Environment
- EHR Implementation Systems
- Lack of Time + Abundance of Work
- Physician Personas + Attitudes
Between these 5 major factors that contribute to Burnout and the countless other smaller issues that pile on top of a practitioner’s mental health, there is an obvious issue to be addressed.
What are the Risks?
Also known as “Depersonalization”, Compression Fatigue appears when practitioners typically have a sour attitude towards patients and other staff.
This often manifests in the form of sarcastic comments, venting to patients about the job, or a generally cynical mood.
These actions are a reflection of a person whose emotional energy is completely drained, thus not allowing them to dedicate the necessary compassion to their patients or coworkers.
Once physicians reach the point where they question how much longer they can continue at their current pace, it’s safe to assume that Physician Fatigue is a possible cause.
Practitioners experiencing exhaustion as a result of Physician Burnout typically have extremely low mental and physical energy that only gets worse with more time.
Loss of Interest
This is possibly one of the most dangerous effects of Physician Fatigue, as, at the point where practitioners are losing interest in their profession, they also become more likely to make serious mistakes.
This often leads to overarching anxiety that, if continued on in that state, can lead to a physician beginning to doubt their abilities, as well as the quality and meaning behind your job.
What Can We Do?
To prevent burnout, we must lighten the load. For each 10% decrease in workload, there is a 33% decrease in the risk of Physician fatigue, according to the American Medical Association.
While you may be asking yourself, “If the problem is that there is too much work to do, how am I supposed to decrease my workload?”
The answer to that is simple: it’s not about doing less work, it’s about being more efficient with the time you spend working.
Let’s take a look at some strategies you can implement in your practice to help mitigate the risk of Burnout among your practitioners.
An unfortunate truth of the healthcare industry is that EHR Systems often leave something to be desired for the physicians who have to use them.
However, EHR aren’t going anywhere - in fact, they will only become more prevalent with time.
Rather than spending your time and energy being frustrated with your system’s shortcomings, take it as an opportunity to learn more about your EHR System.
Whether you ask a coworker who never seems to have issues with it, or you contact your company’s EHR representative and ask for help, you’ll thank yourself the next time you can finish the input process without a hitch.
Your three key goals when documenting your charts are to make note of anything related to billing, list medicolegal points of interest, and provide necessary information to maintain continuity of care.
This is not to say that there can never be other notes on a patient’s chart that might be valuable to the rest of the staff, but rather a note to be cognizant of the amount of time spent charting and whether all of it is absolutely necessary.
Automation is Key
If you look at your day-to-day tasks and more than 30% of them could reasonably be automated, you’re doing too much.
Reach out to your office’s IT Support and ask them to help you automate some of the small tasks that are adding up and taking up too much of your work day.
As you notice more of these moments over time, be sure to take note and develop an automation plan so you can keep your head above water instead of getting dragged back down by a new issue.
Though many physicians would classify themselves as ‘perfectionists’ or a ‘lone ranger’ based on their working tendencies, it is worth consulting your team and asking for help.
This could mean encouraging collaboration between staff members on a patient’s chart, or holding a daily meeting first thing in the morning to reconvene and keep your entire team in the loop with updates and impediments.
There will likely be ups and downs with this tactic, but it is important to allow for trial and error and to try and find a solution that benefits everyone.
There are dozens of articles like this one you could read to learn new strategies you could use to help keep Physician Burnout at bay, but the most important step you can take is to take a step.
So long as you pick even just one pain point and focus on doing what you can to resolve the issues, you’re doing enough.
There will be time to address any other issues you may have, but it will be a lot easier and more immediately rewarding to take things one step at a time.
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