Ways to Help Tackle and Reduce Physician Burnout

Since the onset of the pandemic, the levels of physician burnout have increased significantly. According to a survey completed by the Ontario Medical Association, 72.9 percent of physicians have stated that they have experienced some level of burnout in 2021, up from 66 percent from the previous year.

Physician burnout is a concern as it compromises patient safety, reduces productivity and performance, creates strains in personal relationships, as well as negatively impacts the COVID-19 pandemic response. In this blog, we will share ways in which physicians can take action to help tackle and reduce physician burnout.

What is Burnout?

As defined in the Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual:

“Burnout is the psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment.”

According to VeryWellMind, some warnings signs and symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feelings of alienation from work-related activities, including viewing your job as increasingly stressful and frustrating, feeling cynical about your work, or emotionally distancing yourself from their work
  • Headaches, stomach aches or intestinal issues
  • Emotional exhaustion, including feeling drained, unable to cope or unmotivated to get work done
  • Under-performance, including having difficulty doing everyday tasks at work or at home, being unable to concentrate, or experiencing a lack of creativity 

Ways to Tackle and Reduce Physician Burnout

To help physicians tackle and reduce physician burnout, we have included some tips falling into to categories:

  1. Workplace-related actions
  2. Individual-related actions

To help tackle and reduce physician burnout, the first place that we should address is the place where the burnout occurs: the workplace. Physicians are exposed to highly stressful situations on a constant basis, so it is important for them to implement ways to keep themselves in check and provide a sense of control in their workplace.

There are many ways in which a physician can change up their work environment and balance their workload to help reduce the stress in the workplace. Here are a few:

1. Reduce administrative burden.

Physicians can reduce their administrative burden by offloading non-essential tasks to staff including filling out and faxing forms, entering data into the EMR, hiring additional staff, and more.

Outsourcing your billing to third party billing companies like DoctorCare could also help with reducing your administrative burden as the work is passed onto a billing expert so that you and your staff can focus on the work that matters to you, which is patient care.

2. Utilize technology solutions.

Taking advantage of the features available in your EMR system can be helpful in reducing physician burnout as it allows you to be more efficient, helps reduce errors and keep you organized so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

EMR systems save a lot of time as the input of fields can be automated and in turn further reduce the stress of administrative tasks. It is also great to stay organized because everything is in one place and the system helps you track and manage your income more effectively.

3. Create a balanced schedule.

Having an efficient schedule that is tailored to your preferences can help reduce burnout as you will have better control of your day and can schedule in breaks as needed.

One way that you can improve your workflow is by managing your scheduling and appointments. You can do this by scheduling appointment requests within one week and always keep a waiting list of patients that can be called in case of cancelled appointments. We also recommend including sufficient open time in your schedule to accommodate same-day appointments to provide a high level of care for urgent requests.

4. Take time off.

Many physicians are hesitant on taking a vacation as there are many restrictions and safety concerns for travelling due to the pandemic. However, if physicians are not taking the break they need to help restore energy and resources, they will more likely experience burnout.

We recommend physicians take time off to give themselves a chance to relax and recharge. Physicians can spend time on non-work-related activities that they enjoy including hobbies, connecting with family and friends, and so on.

If you are concerned about finding a replacement while you are away, we can help! At DoctorCare, we have helped hundreds of deto cover for them while they are away.

Not all burn-out can be tackled at the workplace. Physicians can also engage in strategies outside of work to help address and reduce symptoms of physician burnout including:

1. Connect with colleagues.

With busy schedules, and the added complexity of pandemic related restrictions, we recognize that it can be difficult to connect with colleagues. Nonetheless, it is recommended that physicians take time to engage with colleagues. Virtual coffee meetings give the opportunity to have conversations with those that understand their experiences and provide each other advice which can result in reducing physician burnout.

2. Practice mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness can help physicians become present, reduce stress, and re-focus on what’s important. Mindfulness exercises include breath exercises, meditation, awareness of feelings and thoughts and many more.

There are various methods that are widely available online on how to include mindfulness into your day. Here is a great resource from Well Doc Alberta shared on the Canadian Medical Association website on a couple of techniques that physicians can implement into their daily routines.

3. Practice self-care.

Self-care includes any personal strategies that help an individual deal with their day-to-day stresses. There are two notable types of self-care that physicians can focus on to help reduce burnout. First and foremost, physicians should be focused on satisfying basic needs, such as eating and sleeping regularly, reducing excessive intake of caffeine, sugar, and other substances.

In addition, physicians can make regular time for do things you love and enjoy. These activities can include anything from exercising, cooking, connecting with family and friends, watching movies, and so on. This gives you an opportunity to take a step back and give yourself the care that you are always striving to give to your patients.

4. Stress management techniques.

Managing stress ties in with mindfulness. Being self-aware on how you manage and handle your stress levels can also help reduce burnout. Although stress cannot be fully eliminated, physicians can take action to help cope when stressful situations occur.

Some tips to help cope with stress is taking care of yourself, analyzing the stressful event objectively, and seeking personal support. For more information on techniques on how to cope with stress, check out this article by the Canadian Medical Protective Association’s Good Practices Guide.

If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, it may seem like you are alone – but you aren’t. There are a lot of resources available to help, and the most important step is just getting started. If you are feeling the symptoms of burnout and don’t know where to start, you can try some of the tips in this blog or check out some additional external resources:

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