Feels and the ramifications of burnout by physicians, nurses and allied health professionals has never been higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Too many providers continue to struggle with staff shortages and other factors that exacerbate burnout. In fact, physicians are more burned out than similarly trained professionals in other fields, even when adjusted for hours worked per week.
If long work weeks alone aren’t the reason why physicians and many of their nurses and allied health professionals feel more burned out than other professionals, there may be something about the kind of work they do that contributes to burnout.
Following are four critical steps you can take to reduce physician burnout in your practice.
Acknowledging the problem
The first step to curbing or even eliminating physician burnout in your practice is simply acknowledging the problem. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around talking about your mental health, even in the practice space. Encouraging candid conversations between your physicians and other care providers can help get rid of the stigma.
To start a dialogue and measure how your physicians are doing, you can establish wellness as a quality indicator for your practice. An annual wellness survey can help you identify what is happening throughout the practice, identify your physicians’ stressors, and be proactive about fixing them.
If you are looking to start a wellness survey, the Mayo Clinic has a free online well-being assessment, the Well-Being Index, that can help you get started. You can even share it with your physicians so they can test themselves anonymously.
Reducing the administrative burden
Most people who are experiencing burnout report feeling a work-related emotional exhaustion. For physicians, much of that exhaustion comes from their administrative burden.
Administrative and bureaucratic tasks take physicians away from what they do best: care for their patients. If you’re not always tracking how much time your physicians spend doing administrative work, the actual number might surprise you.
A 2014 study in the International Journal of Health Services found that the average doctor spends 8.7 hours per week on administrative work. That’s virtually an entire day, every week, when your physicians aren’t treating patients.
Technology can be an amazing tool that helps us do our jobs better and more efficiently, but when it comes to physicians using the electronic health record (EHR or EMR), it can have the opposite effect on their performance. According to the American Association for Physician Leadership, the more time physicians spend with the EHR, the less time they tend to spend with patients.
While the EHR is designed to help physicians and their staff communicate and coordinate care across the patient’s care continuum, the amount of data entry can lead to burnout. If your physicians are spending too much time inside the EHR, consider getting them a scribe or find other ways to ease the administrative burden.
Controlling the practice environment
Let’s face it: Practices can be chaotic places. That’s especially true if your practice has multiple physicians treating patients at the same time. Filled waiting rooms, ringing phones and patients constantly going in and out can lead to a lot of additional stress for your physicians and staff.
With a solution like intakeQ, you can automate and optimize your intake process with secure, HIPAA-compliant digital forms. Since your patients have all their paperwork in before they come in for their appointment, your staff has enough time to prepare before they arrive. That means your patients spend less time in your waiting room filling out paperwork.
Here’s how it works.
While there may not be a single magic bullet for solving the physician burnout crisis, these steps can help us move in the right direction. Doctors, nurses and other members of the team who are feeling burned out tend to leave the practice, so making their mental health your top priority is essential. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself and your staff, you can’t take care of others.