Healthcare News & Insights

Physician burnout rising: What hospitals can do

Historically, physician burnout has been a big problem at hospitals – and it’s not getting much better. In fact, the latest research shows many more doctors are at the brink of exhaustion, so facilities need to correct this issue fast. 

200252960-001Hospitalists and emergency department physicians have some of the highest levels of burnout when compared to providers from multiple specialties.

According to a recent survey of doctor burnout from the Mayo Clinic (described in detail in a news release), 54% of physicians had at least one symptom of burnout. And emergency medicine physicians were some of the worst affected.

Although work hours aren’t necessarily increasing for physicians, burnout’s still skyrocketing. Overall, burnout is up 10% over the last three years across all specialties. Physicians also report little satisfaction with their work-life balance.

Rationale behind burnout

As described in an article from MedPage Today, another Mayo Clinic study found that nearly 44% of hospitalists reported they were emotionally exhausted, and 42.3% were experiencing depersonalization. And nearly one-tenth of hospitalists (9.2%) admitted to feelings of suicide ideation during the previous 12 months.

These feelings may affect clinical staff retention and turnover. Around 29% of hospitalists said it was likely they’d be leaving their current practice within two years – 13% said they were definitely leaving.

The top three reasons why hospitalists weren’t happy: “loss of autonomy and control over content of clinical work,” “unreasonable quantity of work and pace,” and “regulatory and professional liability concerns.”

Most of what causes physician burnout is systemic, and it can only be corrected by hospital executives who are committed to promoting a cultural shift that’ll improve the working environment for their clinicians.

What to do

Burnout needs to be addressed directly. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, serious efforts must be made to improve the working environment for physicians, reducing their clerical burdens and giving them more control over their work.

There are many resources available to help doctors reduce burnout, including several described in another MedPage Today article.

Example: The American College of Emergency Physicians compiled a resource manual, the “Wellness Book for Emergency Physicians.” The guide discusses how physicians can develop coping mechanisms for multiple job-related stressors from scheduling issues to exposure to infectious diseases.

The manual also allows doctors to self-diagnose their on-the-job stress so they can get an idea of their current professional mental health. In addition, it gives physicians an idea of the steps they need to take to get back on the right track.

But, as Mayo Clinic researchers noted, self-help techniques aren’t always enough.

Hospitals can be more proactive in reducing burnout by giving doctors a voice in big decisions that will affect their day-to-day workflow, such as the selection of an electronic health records (EHR) system or a significant change in the hospital’s care processes.

Incorporating their suggestions will not only make them feel valued, but they’ll likely help you target the specific problems that increase burnout.

Some facilities even go the extra mile, allowing doctors and clinical staff on-site access to resources that allow them to de-stress while on the job, like meditation classes and relaxation rooms.

Whatever tactic your hospital chooses, burnout simply can’t be ignored.

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