Get proactive about avoiding physician burnout

By Matt Kuhrt

The consequences of physician burnout extend beyond the health of doctors themselves to the quality of care they provide. It's not just a personal issue of work-life balance, but rather a professional issue that affects patient outcomes, and therefore physician practices, as well. Options have begun to emerge for those seeking to stem the tide according to an article in MedPage Today.

  • Reach out. As burnout has become more widely recognized, various organizations have developed programs and systems that can help. The American Medical Association's STEPSforward model and the American College of Emergency Physicians' "Wellness Book for Emergency Physicians" offer advice on topics that help practices and physicians recognize and respond to potential burnout hazards.
  • Change the practice paradigm. A recent article in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests burnout often stems from a view of medicine as a "fixing-people production line," suggesting that doctors need more time and mental space than they're typically afforded from practice and administrative responsibilities. This insight dovetails with findings from a team from the Center for Excellence in Primary Care at the University of California San Francisco, which revealed that high-quality practices seek out ways to keep their physicians more focused on patients via initiatives to offload tasks that could be performed by other members of the practice.
  • Take matters into your own hands. In the end, physicians themselves may need to make adjustments to their schedules in order to maintain work-life balance and keep themselves energized and engaged. For example, 69-year-old Kenneth Harkavy, M.D., told MedPage Today about his decision to move to part-time work in order to avoid feeling pressured or burned out over the course of his career.

To learn more:
- read the MedPage Today article
- read the article in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings