November 23, 2016
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Nine strategies to reverse physician burnout

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Building upon a decade of research on the rise and cost of physician burnout, researchers at the Mayo Clinic proposed nine strategies that health care organizations can implement to reverse the trend, limit the risk and promote physician well-being, according to a recent news release.

“Research has shown that more than half of U.S. physicians are experiencing symptoms of burnout, and the rate is increasing,” Tait Shanafelt, MD, director of Mayo Clinic’s Program on Physician Well-being, said in the release. “Unfortunately, many organizations see burnout as a personal problem to be addressed by the individual physician. It is clear, however, that burnout is a system issue, and addressing it is the shared responsibility of both the individuals and health care organizations.”

Physician burnout causes great impact on both an organizational and personal level, potentially leading to lower productivity, staff turnover, diminished quality of care and malpractice suits, as well as broken relationships, alcoholism and suicide.

“The reasons we need to reverse this trend in physician burnout are compelling,” John Noseworthy, MD, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, added. “Professional exhaustion and disillusionment can adversely impact clinical performance, and result in medical errors and decreased quality of care. This situation hurts patients and providers, and we need to fix it.”

Shanafelt and Noseworthy outline the nine strategies to resolve burnout in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. They suggest that organizations should:

  • Recognize and evaluate the problem;
  • identify the behaviors of leaders who can positively or negatively impact burnout;
  • create targeted interventions to enhance efficiency while decreasing clerical work through a systems approach;
  • foster a community atmosphere;
  • strategically offer rewards and incentives;
  • assess whether the organization’s stated values and mission are being followed;
  • promote flexibility and work-life balance through organizational practices and policies;
  • provide at-risk individuals with self-care resources; and
  • identify factors that contribute to burnout and invest in solutions.

“Deliberate, sustained and comprehensive efforts by the organization to reduce burnout and promote engagement can make a difference,” they concluded. However, they note that further work to address the problem nationally is warranted.

Disclosure: Shanafelt and Noseworthy report funding by Mayo Clinic Program on Physician Well-Being.