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Burnout in Healthcare

Disputing Blog by Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly Hayes

A CNBC post last month on conflict resolution in healthcare opens with this statement:

Health care has always been a stressful profession. Think high-stakes work, too many patients, overwhelmed employees. It all adds up to lots of potential conflict, and that’s bad news for patient care, safety, and satisfaction. Now, throw health reform changes linking reimbursement to quality and patient perception of care metrics into the mix and the implications are clear: Managers must help employees handle conflicts productively. If not, the organization may not survive.

A JAMA survey last year substantiated the notion that physicians are more likely to experience burnout than other US workers:

Compared with a probability-based sample of 3442 working US adults, physicians were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (37.9% vs 27.8%) and to be dissatisfied with work-life balance (40.2% vs 23.2%) (P < .001 for both).

Bob Wachter, MD posted his concerns about physician burnout and the effect on the patient safety movement:

…the blizzard of new initiatives – all well meaning but cumulatively overwhelming – thrust at busy clinicians has created overload. The problem, of course, is that nobody freed up the time to do all this new stuff. When commercial airline pilots recertify every year on a simulator, they do this on company time. When they spend 30 minutes completing a pre-flight checklist, their salary is assured. But for many physicians, these new tasks – learning a new way of thinking, implementing a checklist, or surviving the installation of a new IT system – are usually obligations on top of an already jam-packed day. Even for nurses, who generally are salaried, new mandates to scan bar codes or even to wash hands ate up precious minutes in days that already lacked much white space.

What resources are available to healthcare providers to deal with change, stress, and burnout?

In the book, Bounce: Living the Resilient Life, Robert Wicks writes about techniques for managing stress from his 30 years of work with physicians, educators, and ministers:

Stress is a fact of modern life. And as more and more people face greater financial insecurity, longer work hours, and the increasingly complex personal and social demands of our fast-paced, multi-tasking, high-tech lifestyle, finding healthy ways to handle stress is more important than ever.


Holly Hayes

Holly Hayes Bovio received a Masters in Health Administration (MHA) from Duke University and her undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University. She holds a certificate in mediation from Texas State.  Holly brings a strong hospital operations background to healthcare mediations including a focus on clinical quality.  Holly managed her own consulting… MORE >

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