Creating a Culture of Physician Wellness

Provider burnout is a growing epidemic in our country. Physicians work in high stress situations every day, but with the demand to see more patients growing, they rarely have time to slow down and reflect. With high patient quotas and administrative demands, the work-life balance tips more towards work and less towards life. These long hours lead to less time with family and loved ones. Provider job satisfaction goes down, and with it patient care. It is important to confront burnout in your practice and help providers regain control of their lives. But how?

While physician resilience is important, and attempting to boost it is a common tactic to combat burnout, this should not be your primary focus. Listening to your providers and giving them the resources and support they need is key to provide quality patient care. Providers are often denied privileges or licenses for being treated for depression or substance abuse. It is important to prevent your providers from self-medicating or suppressing their emotions.

Identifying a wellness coach or wellness team is a good place to start. This can be an individual or group of physicians, nurses, administrators, etc. – anyone who is passionate about improving wellness. One of the first things the wellness team should do is come up with a confidential survey for providers to take to evaluate their job satisfaction, work-life balance, drug use, sleep habits, exercise, nutrition and general self-care. This will provide a good baseline for the current state of your providers. Based on these results, a wellness program can be developed. On-site changes such as an exercise facility or nap rooms for on-call shifts can provide physicians with the opportunity to get in some exercise and prevent sleep deprivation. You can also take your wellness program outside of the office with team building activities like a hike or cooking class. Offering counseling or emotional support for providers in need can prevent depression and drug addiction. Wellness shouldn’t only be promoted within the work community, but also in the home life. Involving spouses, children, and loved ones in your program provides an at home support system. Loved ones at home can advocate for proper nutrition, exercise, self-care. Taking time away from the office and vacations should be encouraged.

Reducing environmental stressors will also promote provider wellness. Physicians are often buried in paperwork, so implementing processes to improve workflows in the office can reduce burnout. Making sure your practice has adequate coverage and fair schedules will also promote wellness among your physicians. One way to ensure this is to implement an automated provider scheduling system. These have been proven to prevent understaffing, reduce overtime, reduce burnout, and improve provider satisfaction.

While provider burnout is on the rise, there are ways to combat it. Reducing burnout is important for both provider wellness and patient wellness. Every doctor is different, so make sure you take time to listen to the needs of your providers and work with them to ensure they have the resources to be the best doctor they can be.

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