Understand the connection between burnout, wellness, and medicine
One way to promote workplace wellness is to educate yourself on the magnitude of burnout and how it can affect an individual physician as well as the entire organization. But first, why is burnout so pervasive among physicians? While burnout can exist in any profession, the high demands on the job, the culture of medicine, and institutional factors make health care a prime place for burnout to flourish. In a study done by Tait Shanafelt in 2014, the most commonly cited sources of burnout were “electronic medical records (EMRs), static physician workforce levels despite growing patient populations, declining physician reimbursement, and loss of physician autonomy in clinical practice are just a few potential catalysts of burnout.”
Plus, medicine and hospital settings have historically had a “machismo” culture in which stress management is seen as an individual responsibility and those who openly seek help may also fear the social and professional stigma. All of these factors can lead to burnout and often the stages of burnout aren’t obvious until it’s too late for help.
Christina Maslach, author of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, defines burnout as emotional exhaustion, a lack of feeling personal accomplishment, and depersonalization. In particular, depersonalization, can affect your organization’s bottom line in that a physician’s lack of empathy and connection to a patient can lead to poor patient outcomes. In fact, in the aforementioned study by Tait Shanafelt, burnt out physicians were more likely to admit that they had made a major medical error within the past three months.
Essentially, the health care industry has many factors that contribute to burnout more than other professions. Distressed and burnt out physicians can’t perform at their best and many suffer in silence until a breaking point. Educating yourself about these connections is a good stepping stone as you acknowledge the seriousness of burnout and encourage team members to be open about seeking assistance.