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Preventing burnout in the medical profession
BeWell aims to shed light on wellness issues affecting the many and varied faculty/staff groups on campus. In this post, the focus is upon health care clinicians: What can they do to enhance their own wellness as they struggle through long hours, difficult cases and piles of paperwork?
Doctor burnout is a pervasive issue, with more than half of U.S. physicians experiencing “substantial symptoms” of job burnout, according to a 2017 National Academy of Medicine paper which summarized findings from multiple research studies conducted in major medical centers across the U.S.1
Tait Shanafelt, MD, a co-author of the discussion paper, is a national leader in efforts to curb physician burnout. In 2017, Stanford Medicine hired him as its first chief wellness officer and head of the Stanford WellMD Center to help lead and coordinate efforts to advance physician wellness. The agenda includes improving characteristics of the work environment that contribute to physician distress and result in strain on productivity and the quality of care provided to patients. As Shanafelt stated in a recent interview2, “We are losing the connection to the meaning and purpose in what we do, which is trying to provide care for patients. Instead of that, we’re actually trying to please an insurance company.”
The Stanford response
Shanafelt does not believe that “the answer” lies in “yoga, granola, and getting more sleep.” Instead, he is guiding Stanford to take a comprehensive approach that includes evolving the organizational culture, improving the efficiency of the practice environment and supporting personal resilience. The Center is a change agent with its own programs and is also a catalyst, collaborator and resource for various departments and institutions. Much like efforts to improve quality, improving physician wellness and professional fulfillment necessitates the involvement of department chairs, division chiefs, administrative leaders, and physicians in practice. The WellMD Center is a key resource for these leaders as they address wellness issues within their respective domains.
Even as it helps galvanize organizational efforts to improve efficiency of practice and evolve the culture, WellMD also calls for the creation of additional personal resilience and wellness offerings to support physicians’ efforts to take care of themselves in order that they:
- Provide higher quality and more compassionate patient care
- Are better role models for trainees
- Have higher patient satisfaction and safety scores
- Experience less stress and burnout
- Live longer
Coaching for Health Care Clinicians: Restoring Professional Fulfillment
In response to WellMD’s call for additional personal resilience resources, BeWell is offering a Health Coaching program developed and overseen by BeWell Coach Claire Palomo. Professional health coaching is a proven strategy for improving work-life integration, self-care, and personal resilience. The new program has been designed specifically for health care providers with respect to both content as well as flexibility in the time and location where the meetings occur.
The Health Coaching Program offers health care providers a safe space to take a pause and reflect on what it means to reach their full potential and how to create positive changes in their lives. Certified coaches support health care providers in bringing awareness to different aspects of their health and well-being that can affect their professional fulfillment and personal connections. Coaches guide health care providers toward increasing health behaviors and reconnecting to a greater sense of meaning and purpose, enhancing professional fulfillment, preventing burnout and living a more connected life.
1 Dyrbye LN, Shanafelt, TD, Sinsky, CA, Cipriano PF, Bhatt J, Ommaya A, West CP, and Meyers D. Burnout Among Health Care Professionals: A Call to Explore and Address This Underrecognized Threat to Safe, High-Quality Care. National Academy of Medicine. July 2017.
2 Snow K and Keyes A. Burnout among physicians a pervasive problem that can lead to major medical errors. NBC News. Nov. 2018.
On June 5, 2019, Stanford Medicine announces a collaboration with the California Medical Association on a project to battle the epidemic of physician burnout by providing support services to doctors across the state. Learn more.