Physician well-being is getting a lot of well-deserved attention these days. Its antithesis, physician burnout, saps physicians of their spirit, humanity, and effectiveness as healers. I have previously asserted that the best protection against burnout is for physicians to collectively shape how care is delivered, assuring that it is both effective (works for patients) and consistent with professional standards (works for doctors). I still think that is true, but I also want to put in a plug for unplugging.
I recently had the pleasure of “going off the grid” for a bit while enjoying a fabulous vacation in Alaska. Absent a brief period of connectivity in the middle of the trip, I was without cell service or Wi-Fi for the better part of two weeks. It was wonderful!
Continue reading Restoration and Well-being
We held a retreat last week for the Board of Governors of Northwell Health Physician Partners. Because we have matured as an organization, the agenda was different from recent years. Instead of asking “big questions” about what the group is and should be, we focused on providing information to the Board, and on addressing ways in which we could reduce physician burnout.
Given the imminent inauguration of the new president, and his party’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, one of the informational sessions was devoted to how the changeover in Washington may affect health care policy. We heard from Northwell Health’s head of government affairs, and from a former senate staffer who now works for a firm that provides our organization with insight into what is going on inside the beltway.
The speakers were knowledgeable and engaging, and I am confident that their description of the incoming administration and of the plans being laid by the new congress was accurate and insightful. It is no criticism of them to also say that I found their description appalling, frightening, and depressing.
Here are a few “highlights”:
Continue reading Repeal and… Then What?
Physician burnout has received a lot of well-deserved attention lately. Characterized by emotional exhaustion and professional frustration, it has been tied to array of bad outcomes, from physician suicide to poor patient outcomes. Organizations are waking up to the need to measure its prevalence and ameliorate its impact.
There seem to be two broad schools of thought about the causes – and by extension, the fixes – of physician burnout.
The first is focused on the inner life of the physician. Yes, the demands of medical practice are high, but if doctors were a little more “zen” about things, then life would be better for them and the people around them, including their patients. There is now a substantial cottage industry peddling retreats, wellness classes, yoga and more to help physicians find inner peace in our tumultuous times.
The second school of thought focuses on the externalities of physician practice. Increasing demands for productivity, economic stress, loss of control over scheduling, and higher “hassle-factors” associated with EMRs and regulations have made medical practice harder and less rewarding. Burnout is just the natural reaction of sane, well-adjusted, intelligent people put into an insane environment.
Continue reading Burnout