Thursday, December 10, 2015

Greater awareness regarding physician burnout

Have you noticed the recent flurry of articles focusing on physician burnout? Earlier this year, the AMA launched their "STEPS Forward" program to address the issue of physician burnout.

AMA STEPS Forward is an interactive practice transformation series offering innovative strategies that will allow physicians and their staff to thrive in the evolving health care environment by working smarter, not harder. Physicians looking to refocus their practice can turn to AMA STEPS Forward for proven, physician-developed strategies for confronting common challenges in busy medical practices and devoting more time to caring for patients.

Earlier this month, an article published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings sparked interest in this topic and a series of publishers released articles on this topic. They also referenced the Dec 8, 2015 JAMA article titled, "Prevalence of Depression and Depressive Symptoms Among Resident Physicians: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." What starts in residency as extreme mental stress, poor coping skills, and psychological trauma often carries itself to the working world.

Last month on the TEDMED stage, Dr. Pamela Wible spoke about the difficult topic of physician suicide. Physicians may be reluctant to admit that they are thinking about suicide because they may lose their ability (and privilege) to practice medicine. They may jeopardize their careers.

What is the medical community doing to provide support and assistance to medical students, residents, and physicians who may be struggling at work? There is tremendous need to bridge some of these gaps by providing counselors, coaches, mentors, and others who can assess symptoms, identify "red flags," and offer practical suggestions and assistance so that these medical professionals do not continue to struggle alone.

The International Conference on Physician Health (ICPH) is a first step in the right direction, but the focus of this conference remains too narrow (in my opinion) and does not introduce students and physicians with other needed resources on how they can overcome burnout, explore career transitions, or pursue other types of jobs that may provide a healthier work/life balance.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings:
Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014

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