Addressing Physician Burnout

By Steve Barrett
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It’s scarcely a secret that physicians, like many other professionals, are vulnerable to burnout. According to one recent study, more than half of U.S. physicians deal with this issue, which prompts some to retire early.

Citing a survey that tracked an alarming 33 percent increase in burnout among family practitioners from 2013 to 2015, Chesterfield, Missouri-based Enterprise Medical Recruiting notes some frequent signs of burnout and urges hospitals to take action for the sake of both patient care and physician well-being.

Warning signs often include:

  • A drop in the physician’s belief in his or her ability
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Less engagement during encounters with patients

Enterprise Medical Recruiting recommends several approaches to addressing and alleviating physician stress and the possibility of burnout. Hospitals should first ensure that the physician realizes he or she has the full support of the organization. Once that is established, hospitals should ask what they can do to help the physician.

One valuable strategy, according to the recruitment firm, is mindful awareness classes. The classes teach a meditation technique designed to help participants focus on the present. UCLA, one of many universities that offer such courses, says classes at its Mindful Awareness Research Center reduce stress and emotional reactivity and improve concentration.

Paving the Physician Recruitment Path

Physician recruitment has become such a complex endeavor that it is impossible to cover every conceivable base. But Aime Echevarria, Creative Strategy Manager at Coral Gables, Florida-based MDR HealthCare Search, points out some best practices that can make the process run more smoothly.

  • Communicate. Then communicate some more. Stakeholders at the organization should have a full picture of what the candidate brings to the table, and interviewers should provide feedback promptly, Echevarria writes on the company’s blog. Spell out expectations and detail the recruitment process in advance, and prioritize status updates.
  • Emphasize location — but ... A desirable community alone may not land the physician you seek. There are probably other organizations in town where a candidate could go, and in any event, many other factors — such as compensation — also figure large in the physician’s decision. Ensure that candidates have a complete understanding of the position, and make sure the decision makers can speak authoritatively about numerous factors that make the job appealing.
  • Make lemonade. Maybe your new practice or hospital wing is still in design or under construction. Use that to your advantage by showing candidates the blueprints or taking them on site tours. That can impart an understanding that they have a role in shaping the direction of the practice or hospital, rather than leave them with only a vague notion of the kind of place where they will work.