*See bottom of article for information on a virtual Physician Wellness Program hosted by Dr. John.

Our work as physicians is extremely rewarding. But the demands of today’s healthcare system also can create stresses that lead to burnout. It’s important that we find a balance.

Physicians are constantly asked to perform many demanding tasks without the needed support to accomplish them. Studies have identified a multitude of different factors that contribute to physician burnout. You can certainly relate to some of these factors, such as:

  • Spending time on the phone with prior authorization peer-to-peer appeals instead of spending time in an exam room with patients
  • Losing sleep over paperwork, patient satisfaction ratings, RVU requirements, quality measures, MIPS and MACRA 
  • Pajama Time at night completing patient notes with your computer instead of quality time with your family
  • A sense of loss of control with the demands of an overwhelming workload

How can we achieve wellness and resiliency?

On an individual level

On an individual level, burnout is recognizable, reversible, treatable. From a personal perspective, there are steps we can all take to address stress and anxiety, such as:

  • Be a part of organized medicine, such as the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) and the Allegheny County Medical Society (ACMS), so we can stand with a united voice as the government and insurers continue to edge into our exam rooms.
  • Identify your stressors and take action to reduce them. As a two-physician family, my wife and I struggled at dinner time – we were tired, hungry and wanted to connect instead of spending time in the kitchen. So, we hired someone to prepare healthy meals for our family when our children were younger. This enabled us to enjoy meals together without the stress of cooking.
  • Unplug from technology and connect with loved ones. Keep a good balance between work and home by spending time with family and friends doing things you enjoy.
  • Get enough sleep. Set a bedtime and honor it, realizing that you can finish what you were working on tomorrow.
  • Take mindful minutes throughout the day. Doing a few yoga poses, a 10-minute meditation, listening to your favorite music and taking a few deep breaths can give you a quick reset. Try things out to see what works best for you.
  • Build physical activity into your daily routine. Movement increases your energy, releases stress, and improves your mood.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy food, drink water, and avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine.

On an organizational level

Organizational involvement is key in re-engaging physicians and reversing the trend in burnout.

There are many things organizations can do to address burnout, including:

  • Get organized

– Educate and increase awareness

– Assess your needs and prioritize

– Designate time for reflection

– Identify your organization’s core values

– Envision your organization’s culture

  • Anticipate obstacles

– What resources do you have?

– What’s realistic for your organization?

– What do you need to do to foster employee buy-in?

  • Engage leadership

– Teach practical skills

– Build community

– Incentivize physicians to get involved

  • Stay accountable

– Improve workplace environment, promote flexibility and work-life integration

– Provide resources to promote resilience and self-care

– Keep talking about it – make it a continued priority, not a once-and-done discussion

During my presidency, I will continue to work with PAMED leadership and staff to provide resources and education that can help you determine the best ways to mitigate signs of burnout. The solutions will require more than yoga and mindfulness training, although these are effective practices for some of us. I invite you to join in the conversation at www.pamedsoc.org/wellness.  

Frank Lloyd Wright once said: “We are all here to develop a life more beautiful, more concordant, more fully expressive of our own sense of pride and joy than ever before in the world.”


Physician Wellness and Strategies to Address Burnout

Presented by: Lawrence R. John, MD, President, PAMED

FREE Virtual Town Hall Meeting
6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Registration and More Information:
https://2020-physician-wellness-townhall.eventbrite.com/ 

Program Goals:

  • Identify factors at the individual and organizational level that create feelings or situations that lead to burnout.
  • Identify and incorporate strategies and tactics to help mitigate the effects of stress and burnout.

FREE 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ will be awarded to members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and their County Medical Societies who participate in the program. Note: Non-members are not eligible to receive this CME. Should they join, the CME can be awarded at that time.

 

Author profile
Lawrence John, MD

Dr. John is president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and former president of the Allegheny County Medical Society.