Burnout prevention tips from the trenches

It's no longer a secret that symptoms of professional burnout--exhaustion, cynicism, lack of effectiveness--are spreading through the healthcare workforce like wildfire. While recent large studies have shockingly revealed burnout rates of 50 percent or higher, a recent small survey from the Studer Group indicated that nearly all doctors (90 percent) are afflicted by burnout at least some of the time.

Also troubling, more than half (54 percent) of the 350 physician respondents said the leaders of their organizations were not taking steps to treat or prevent burnout.

But while many organizations are still figuring out how to achieve healthcare's Quadruple Aim, which encompasses improving the work life of healthcare employees, physicians and others can learn about strategies to protect themselves.

According to doctors who took the Studer Group's survey, the most effective ways to prevent or treat burnout include the following:

  • Self care. Healthcare workers must be attentive to their own physical, mental and emotional health. Regard this work with the same priority you would in preparing for an important meeting or event, Linda Burnes Bolton, vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, previously told FiercePracticeManagement in an interview.
  • Downtime. To recharge, physicians must take vacation time and strive to keep their work schedules realistic--a particular challenge for employed physicians expected to meet aggressive productivity targets.
  • Honesty. Physicians must be able to admit they are burnt out in order to recover, survey respondents said. But self-awareness isn't enough. Professionals suffering from burnout or other mental health issues often feel pressure to try to fix the problem themselves, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously. Talking openly and seeking outside help, however, are critical to long-term wellness and overcoming cultural stigmas surrounding mental health.

To learn more:
- see the survey