ER doc burnout buster: Innovative program aims to help with work-life balance

A California hospital has introduced an innovative "time-banking" program that aims to prevent emergency room doctors from burnout and lead more balanced lives, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Stanford Hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine now provides physicians with meals, housecleaning and a variety of other services--including babysitting, elder care, movie tickets, handyman services and dry cleaning pickup--as part of the program to ease the work-life conflicts for the emergency medicine faculty, the article reports.

With the program, doctors can "bank" the time they spend doing the often-overlooked work of mentoring, serving on committees, covering others' shifts or deploying in emergencies. They earn credits to use for work or home-related services, according to the article.

"This gives me more bandwidth at work," Greg Gilbert, M.D., an ER physician at Stanford, told the Post. "And because I can hang out with my kids and not be exhausted all the time, I'm able to be the kind of parent I'd always hoped to be."

Stanford's program, part of a two-year, $250,000 pilot funded primarily by the Sloan Foundation, showed large increases in job satisfaction and work-life balance and collegiality, according to the Post.

The stress of daily life-and-death decisions in the ER can take its toll on clinicians, but hospitals don't need to invest huge dollars to help prevent burnout. Because medical students are trained to work non-stop with little to no sleep, healthcare leaders must make sure clinicians take care of themselves first by encouraging them to eat breakfast and get the sleep they need.

Although hospitals have long used therapy dogs to help patients, the animals can also help relieve the stress of doctors and nurses. Instead of spending their lunch hour eating sandwiches, ER physicians and nurses at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania now spend "puppy" time with animals from Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read The Washington Post article

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