6 Ways Health Employers Can Curb Physician Burnout Rates - Part 2
Read part one of this series here.
Burnout is an increasingly serious issue in the healthcare industry, with a 2015 study published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine estimating physician burnout rates at 25 to 60 percent “across all specialties,” nationwide.
What can today’s physician employers do about this issue? Luckily, there’s an abundance of research that seeks to solve this ongoing issue, which we’ve sorted through to offer these 6 key methods to curb physician burnout rates.
6 Tips to Lower Physician Burnout Rates Continued
4. Support: Cultivate a Supportive Community & Culture.
Pointing out that the professional challenges facing doctors are unique and inherently stressful — e.g., dealing with medical errors and malpractice suits — the Mayo Clinic authors emphasize the importance of a strong, supportive peer community in the medical workplace.
- Such peer support can involve a wide range of formal and informal activities, including:
- Celebrating achievements (for instance, professional milestones or personal accomplishments)
- Supporting co-workers during challenging experiences (such as the loss of a patient or a malpractice suit)
- Sharing ideas and experiences on navigating a medical career (perhaps via employee workshops or outings)
The authors point out that interactions of this nature once “happened somewhat organically” during discussions or gatherings in the physicians’ lounge. But those shared experiences have been largely lost, “an unintended casualty of increasing productivity expectations, documentation requirements, and clerical burden,” they add.
“Deliberate organizational strategies are needed to counter the forces eroding connection with colleagues,” they write.
5. Reward: Improve Your Use of Bonus & Incentive Plans.
The use of rewards is a time-honored method to provide incentives above and beyond the standard structure of compensation and benefits. And your organization may already utilize such a system — for instance, many physician compensation contracts are based on productivity, along with performance-based bonuses.
But “physicians are not salespeople,” as the Mayo authors point out, and although “some variation in productivity (e.g., patient volumes and relative value unit generation) can be attributed to physicians’ experience, efficiency, and skill, such variation is relatively narrow.”
Therefore, to “mitigate the potential negative effects of productivity-based pay,” it may be beneficial to consider a rewards system that’s based on dimensions such as “self-care and well-being … which may provide a safeguard to counter the incentive to overwork.”
“Rewards such as greater flexibility (which can facilitate work/life integration) or protected time to pursue personally meaningful aspects of work (e.g., quality improvement work, community outreach, research, education, or mentorship) may allow more productive physicians to shape their work to create personal and professional fulfillment,” the authors add.
6. Collaborate: Hire a Professional Coach.
“Professional coaching, long utilized in the business world, provides a results-oriented and stigma-free method to address burnout, primarily by increasing one's internal locus of control,” write the authors of the Intern Med study.
“Coaching enhances self-awareness, drawing on individual strengths, questioning self-defeating thoughts and beliefs, examining new perspectives, and aligning personal values with professional duties,” the authors add. “Coaching utilizes established techniques to increase one's sense of accomplishment, purpose, and engagement, all critical in ameliorating burnout. Coaching presumes that the client already possesses strengths and skills to handle life's challenges, but is not accessing them maximally.”
Professional coaching services are widely available in most major metropolitan areas; for more information on using professional coaching to lower physician burnout rates, you can view the original J Gen Intern Med study here.
In summary, while there’s no quick-fix method to curb physician burnout rates, these six methods may provide some direction into first steps to be taken in the fight to improve work/life balance for medical personnel.
“Our experience demonstrates that deliberate, sustained, and comprehensive efforts by the organization to reduce burnout and promote engagement can make a difference,” the Mayo authors write. “Many effective interventions are relatively inexpensive, and small investments can have a large impact. Leadership and sustained attention from the highest level of the organization are the keys to making progress.”
Looking for more insight into hiring and retaining physicians? We can help: Contact a Kendall & Davis specialist today for expert assistance with physician staffing.
1 Gazelle G1, Liebschutz JM, Riess H. "Physician burnout: coaching a way out." J Gen Intern Med. 2015 Apr;30(4):508-13. doi: 10.1007/s11606-014-3144-y. Epub 2014 Dec 20.
2 Shanafelt TD1, Noseworthy JH2. "Executive Leadership and Physician Well-being: Nine Organizational Strategies to Promote Engagement and Reduce Burnout." Mayo Clin Proc. 2017 Jan;92(1):129-146. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.10.004. Epub 2016 Nov 18.