Interestingly, physician career satisfaction closely correlates with patient satisfaction within a geographic area. As healthcare executives and organizations rank patient experience as a top priority, quality and safety are essential issues.
Given the importance of physician satisfaction (and a dose of human compassion) to the patient experience, it is troublesome that physician dissatisfaction and burnout are on the rise. Several factors on the healthcare horizon that likely will exacerbate the trend towards physician dissatisfaction include demand by an aging population for more physician services, decreased autonomy for physicians due to changing healthcare systems, and reduced compensation for physicians because of healthcare reform.
7 Steps to Improving Physician Wellbeing
Whether you are a physician, healthcare administrator, or involved community member, improving physician satisfaction and wellbeing should be your goal. Based on experience at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, take the following 7 effective actions to improve physician wellbeing at your organization:
Listen to your physicians. Ask your physicians what they need. Recognize that physician needs will vary by group, gender, and age. For example, the needs of veteran physicians are not the same as those of younger physicians.
Gather data on key variables affecting “climate” of the physician workplace. Research funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality demonstrated that certain variables – time pressure, lack of control of the workplace and schedule, degree of chaos, and lack of values alignment – correlated with physician burnout.Therefore,poll your physicians on these key variables.
Enhance meaning in physicians’ work. Richard Gunderman, M.D., reports, “The key to combating physician burnout is not to reduce stress, but to promote professional fulfillment.” Facilitate physicians’ participating in activities in which they feel they are making a difference. To avoid physician burnout, ensure that clinicians devote at least 10% of their time to what they care about.
Reduce chaos in the workplace. Create more peace at work, by having enough staff, offering creative work schedules, providing good use of space, and emphasizing communication. Be cognizant that integrating more or new information technology can result in chaos!
Reduce time pressure and increase work control. A packed schedule and lack of physician control trigger burnout. Allot scheduled time for record-keeping and administrative tasks.
Support work-life balance. Flexible and part-time schedules are key. Having strategies to cover family illness, birth of children, and other personal needs is especially important in retaining physicians.
Participate in a physician wellbeing initiative. Adapt or create a program in your workplace to address physician needs. Institutions and individuals across the nation are taking responsibility to maintain and enhance physician wellbeing by providing programs including assessment of physician satisfaction and planned interventions to monitor and reduce emotional stress and work-related exhaustion.
Improving Physician Wellbeing Is the Right Thing to Do
Physician wellbeing is influenced by both environmental and personal factors. Although some of the needed solutions may require sizable resource investments, each of these steps will reap long-term rewards for your organization and its physicians.
Start where you can. Support a program that works for your organization. Consider the Wellness Program initiated by the Lane County Medical Society. Remember that every effort made matters.