A simple cure for burnout? Bring back the doctors’ lounge

Physician burnout
One way to help reduce physician burnout is to bring back the doctors' lounge.

Diane Sliwka, M.D., thinks she’s come up with a simple and cost-effective way to help battle physician burnout.

Sliwka, a hospitalist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, has led the effort to revamp the doctors’ lounge, according to the AMA Wire.

“I’d say it’s been one of the most popular interventions we’ve made to improve the physician work experience,” she says.

And it may be less about the modernized space itself and more about bringing the doctors together. For example, just as firefighters cook and share meals together, the Mayo Clinic encourages groups of doctors to get together and will pay for meals, in order to build camaraderie, Stephen J. Swenson, M.D., medical director for leadership and organization development at the medical center, recently told an audience at the American College of Healthcare Executives Congress.

Given the importance of people getting to know and trust each other, Swenson said commensality is one of six evidence-based ways to cut staff burnout, which is estimated to impact 54% of doctors and increase physician engagement.

RELATED: ACHE 2017: 6 evidence-based actions to cut staff burnout

Sliwka says the idea of improving the physician lounge came up when the hospital surveyed physicians in 2014 and found that people wanted a space to come together and relax. She and colleagues set out to create a space where doctors could work quietly or socialize with one another.

The new lounge includes a mix of workstations and comfortable rest areas, refreshments, stations to recharge electronic devices and a printer. For physicians, it showed the organization was making an effort on their behalf to provide a space just for them, she says.

RELATED: ACHE 2017: Mayo Clinic's 5 ways to reduce burnout

In fact, one of the behaviors of their managers that staff say makes a big difference is when they show appreciation for their work, says Swenson. Organizations are also focusing on physician wellness. For instance, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has organized a program to support its physicians’ physical and mental well-being, with better communication, physical activity, learning, nutrition and stress management.