So much is being written about physician burnout, and so often authors are needing to qualify the
statement with the notion that burnout is not a “personal failing”. True, and my response to that is to reframe the very essence of the subject… it is “depletion” – this is the state of physical and emotional exhaustion that leads to the cynicism and feeling you are not accomplishing anything worthwhile.
In the April 2017 Issue of HealthLeaders we are reminded that the “one thing burned-out physicians do is leave the practice.” Why is it so much easier to just leave and start new? Part of the answer is lack of hope that anything can and will change. And this is the challenge of leadership – to listen and design a response for improvement.
A MedMan client had the strength and vision to respond with a customized response when two Internists proposed a job share arrangement. How ludicrous – take two FTEs and reduce production to the equivalent of one? Yes, because the one thing burned out physicians do is leave the practice. The two physicians shared the same office and exam rooms creating physician space to recruit another PCP; patients came to appreciate that if their preferred physician was not available, a trusted colleague was available. Patient access was maintained. Each physician continued in the call coverage rotation. Recruitment potential was enhanced as candidates saw the organization as creative and physician centric, compared to the image of physicians exiting the practice.
Indeed, in today’s healthcare crisis, nurses, administrators and other healthcare professionals are also susceptible to depletion. Effective personal responses to depletion are essential. Effective organizational responses to depletion are no less critical.