Nearly every industry faces burnout in its employees. It could be said medical professionals face a larger amount of burnout, especially during the holiday season. When many others get to unwind and be with family, hospitals and urgent care facilities remain open with many physicians still needing to take call.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, when providers feel this way, it can lead to lower patient satisfaction and quality of care, more medical errors, larger turnover, substance abuse and the worst consequence: physician suicide.
Keep an eye out for the following signs of burnout in your hires:
Long hours and a demanding job can weigh heavily on anyone - but especially on physicians and advanced practice providers. They might think the constant feeling of being tired is normal and just comes with the profession. Make note if they seem to have less energy and do not seem as engaged as they once were.
Lack of compassion
As physicians feel more burned out, they might start to become frustrated by patients or not be emotionally available for them and others. Providers may feel as if they are just going through the motions. You might notice they seem mentally drained or are acting more distant when it comes to patient care.
Doubt can happen when providers question the purpose of their work and no longer feel fulfilled. They may be uncertain about the quality of their work or why they continue doing it. This one is more difficult to spot but can become apparent in conversation with the physician or their attitude toward their role in your organization.
Even though it’s not always easy to notice when your staff is facing burnout, remain aware and try to be proactive about catching it. Whether or not you see the signs, here are four ways you can advocate for your hires, help them avoid burnout or resolve those feelings of doubt:
Physicians and APPs who work in certain specialties see the same problems and hear the same stories every day. For some, it can be tedious or begin to seem boring. Most providers go into medicine to help others, so if you notice they no longer seem fulfilled in their daily work, find volunteer opportunities or clinics where they can work outside their normal shifts.
This can provide an outlet from the daily tasks and responsibilities, allowing them to feel a larger sense of purpose as a health care provider and recharge their desire to help others in their specialty.
A new trend many medical students and physicians are using is physician coaching. These coaches help physicians think about their responsibilities and role in a different way. They provide a process of learning to find other ways to remain engaged, interested and prevent burnout. If you don’t already, you might want to have a contact list of coaches so providers can call someone when they feel they need to shift their mindset or reset their way of thinking about their work.
There are various physician well-being indexes and surveys you can use to measure the levels of burnout in your organization. They can help you determine what is causing the burnout and possible solutions for you and your staff.
Paperwork can be a time-consuming, albeit important, task for physicians. If they have nurses, physician assistants or office managers, encourage them to utilize support staff to handle some of the responsibilities they can delegate to others - whether it’s helping with the paperwork, prepping patients, checking their appointments or just taking on small duties to remove some responsibility from the physician.
It’s easy for physicians to put in long hours and feel overworked. This can make it seem like they don’t have time for hobbies and family. Encourage a healthy balance between practice and life outside the facility. If you can work with the organization to find flexibility in schedules, that will allow providers some relief. COVID-19 has also created a shift to more physicians using telemedicine. This is appealing for both freeing up some time in schedules and also feeling more at ease as to not becoming exposed to the virus.
You can also provide resources for wellness coaches, activities and groups that might interest staff, or ways to practice mindfulness and relaxation to disconnect from the stress of the job. Having a relaxation room, gym, cafeteria or break room onsite can be a nice touch to help providers recharge and take a break when they feel overwhelmed.
When burnout seems to take its toll on a member of your staff and it seems like all other solutions have failed, it may be time to seek professional help. Referring a provider to a psychiatrist or counselor - or at least having resources available - will give them a way to understand the root cause of their burnout or lack of drive and start working on ways to improve.