South Florida Hospital News
Sunday April 21, 2019
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March 2019 - Volume 15 - Issue 9

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Physician Burnout Increasing as Demands on Doctors Grow

Working as a physician has its share of challenges. And with more responsibilities being added to the job every day, it’s not surprising that more and more doctors are suffering from burnout. In fact, according to the Medscape National Physician Burnout and Depression Report 2018, of 15,000 physicians surveyed, 42 percent reported burnout, with the highest rates being seen among intensivists, neurologists, family physicians, ob/gyn and internal medicine.

“Burnout is not a South Florida issue or a Broward issue—it’s a national problem that the AMA and other organizations are looking at quite closely,” said Broward Health’s Chief Medical Officer Andrew Ta, M.D. “There are so many more demands on physicians today from dealing with practice management issues to monitoring quality metrics to understanding reimbursement—there are stressors that weren’t there in the 1980s and ‘90s.
 
“This is especially difficult for solo practitioners or small groups that don’t have the support they need to meet all of the administrative demands caused by new changes in medicine,” he added.
 
There are a number of ways in which burnout can manifest. To monitor their risk, Dr. Ta suggests that physicians do a regular self-assessment looking for factors like a lack of fulfillment or enjoyment in the job; loss of purpose; loss of control or autonomy in a practice, and the fact that these issues are beginning to affect their personal lives.
 
“Whether or not a physician asks for help depends on the individual; physicians are notoriously bad patients,” said Dr. Ta. “But in many cases, it isn’t until a physician approaches us saying that they want to go part-time or take a leave of absence that we know there’s a real problem. Still others will leave the field completely.
 
“A lot of the more seasoned physicians who have had their own practices don’t want to deal with the changes in medicine that require them to be evaluated on everything from productivity to quality metrics, to patient satisfaction scores—things other than direct bedside patient care,” he added.
 
In order to help physicians avoid burnout, the Broward Health Physician Group has systems in place to evaluate doctors regularly to make sure that they are still productive employees, and to provide assistance if they need help. “We meet on a quarterly basis with the senior vice president of the ambulatory division to find out what’s going on in the practices, and how we can help meet physicians’ needs,” said Dr. Ta.
 
Furthermore, each hospital within the Broward Health system has a Physician Wellness Committee appointed by the chief of staff to help evaluate any referred medical staff members. The goal is to encourage physicians to take advantage of programs within the hospital or to use outside resources as needed, which may include clinical or mental health services, substance abuse evaluation and treatment, fitness for duty evaluation, or other social services such as financial or legal information.
 
The strategy, according to Dr. Ta, is to stay one step ahead of physician burnout by keeping an open line of communication, and monitoring physicians and practice managers to make sure that their needs—both administrative and clinical—are met.
 
“We have a very active Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes trained psychologists and other personnel who provide counseling services to employees and eligible family members, and who offer work-life resources and programs for professional and personal development,” said Dr. Ta.
 
Broward employees can visit on-site and community-based EAP clinicians that include licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers and mental health counselors who specialize in a variety of clinical areas. EAP services are also available to non-employed medical staff members.
 
Employees are made aware of the available resources during their orientations, and it is also part of the benefits package that they apply for every year. There is also information on the system’s Intranet for hospital employees.
 
“We recognize that physician burnout is a real problem, so our goal is to increase awareness and allocate the resources needed to address the situation,” said Dr. Ta.

To learn more, visit Broward Health at www.browardhealth.org.

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