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Overworked in the pandemic? Beat physician burnout with 3 simple strategies

Overworked in the pandemic? Beat physician burnout with 3 simple strategies


Rise in the numbers of physician burnout case

It’s not surprising that the number of doctors in the United Kingdom considering early retirement has more than doubled in less than 12 months. According to a survey done in April by the British Medical Council, 32% of the respondents are planning to leave the NHS early compared to only 14% last June. Not only in the UK, but doctors all over are suffering from some form of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress, or other mental health conditions relating to or made worse by their work. According to the Indian Medical Association, more than 1,200 doctors have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Many more have been left traumatized after being forced to prioritize among their patients due to the insufficient supplies of medicines and oxygen.

                                                 Source --  British Medical Council

Although the pandemic has raised the physician burnout statistics, the seeds of the issue were sown long back. The time needed to fill the EHR software when a patient comes for a check-up and then grapple with the health insurance companies afterward leaves very little room for proper diagnoses and assessments. But EHRs are not to be blamed entirely. A doctor has access to all the records and can provide better treatment if all of the patient’s different providers are in the same system and use the same EHR. It’s not the EHR itself that the doctors don’t like, it’s the time constraints placed on them that force them to chart extensively while seeing patients. However, the fact is that the EHRs are not going away, but they don’t need to be the focus of a patient’s visit. Excess documentation and filing can stress a doctor out, and Covid-19 has only exacerbated the problem. Physician burnout is mounting and waning that is of utmost importance.  

How to deal with physician burnout?

Sleep, fatigue, and burnout among physicians are probably one of the least surprising things imaginable. But, physicians must take steps to mitigate those issues rather than maintaining the status quo. We have discussed three simple strategies that might help you do just that.

1. Delegate some of the administrative tasks

Talking with peers in a safe and private setting can help relieve stress and provide you with an opportunity to discuss strategies that others have found to be effective in preventing burnout.

Although it is important, getting engrossed in administrative work and dealing with insurance companies can take the focus away from your patients. No physician enjoys that, but it’s the nature of the beast. Times have changed from the nineties, when doctors were only required to write one note a year by most standards to show a patient’s progress. Now, it’s 3-4 pages a visit merely to show how the various liabilities are managed.

If you can delegate a few administrative tasks such as note-taking and form filling to your juniors, you will have much more time to care for your patients. You will also start feeling more fulfilled with your work and might enjoy the daily grind more.

But, to do that, you will need to learn the art of delegating and prioritizing. You can not delegate everything, and anything important must pass through you. Practice it, train your juniors and learn to differentiate between essential and mundane tasks. You might have a hand to play in decreasing physician burnout statistics.

2.  Find a mentor or a support group

“For physicians to avoid burnout, they need connections with colleagues, a sense of control over their work and schedules, and opportunities to grow and excel,” says Tait Shanafelt, director of the John Hopkins Program on Physician well-being and professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic. But doctors can’t do it on their own. The solutions, he said, are “20 percent at the individual level and 80 percent at the system and organization level.” Shanafelt recently assisted in the development of the Listen-Act-Develop approach at Mayo Clinic, which asks physicians to identify their most pressing work problems, collaborate within their work units to propose solutions, put these strategies into action, and evaluate their effectiveness.

                              Listen-Act-Develop Model, source -- 

Talking with peers in a safe and private setting can help relieve stress and provide you with an opportunity to discuss strategies that others have found to be effective in preventing burnout. Likewise, volunteering for a cause or attending religious services in your community can help you stay connected to your world and attain a sense of purpose outside of work.

3. Flexible and efficient workflows

Long working hours can lead to physician burnout. The answer might not be reducing the number of working hours though. The American medical association did a study and found out that physicians feel pressured when they are asked to complete a normal amount of work in a shorter period of time. A better solution would be to implement flexible working hours and tangential incentives for working overtime or covering for a coworker. The time banking concept has proved to be effective in improving job satisfaction. 

In addition, streamlining the way you work and developing an efficient workflow can help you power up your productivity. What changes have you made to your daily workflow that has helped you combat physician burnout? Let our global community of healthcare workers know here — My Medical Panel.