Burnout tops physician issues in 2015
As the year comes to a close, we wrap up our look at five top topics that struck a chord with the medical community in 2015. Coming in at No. 1 on the list is physician burnout, a phenomenon that has become all too common as burdensome regulations and the mounting pressures of practice have put many physicians in survival mode.
A new study reveals that the prevalence of burnout among physicians has escalated in recent years, with 54.4 percent of physicians reporting at least one symptom of burnout.
With those odds, it’s important to understand when burnout may be creeping up on you. At the beginning of the year, a physician burnout researcher identified the seven tell-tale signs you should never ignore—and they include some factors that are so common they may surprise you.
We also highlighted the eight things that can put physicians at risk of burnout, most of which can happen at any point in physicians’ careers.
As a matter of fact, burnout reaches beyond physicians who are established in practice. Survey results released this year by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACMGE) also found similar concerning trends in resident wellness.
Ways physicians are overcoming burnout
Thankfully, help is at hand for those who are struggling with burnout or trying to minimize their risk.
The AMA’s STEPS Forward™ collection offers online modules with proven solutions, including six ways to improve resiliency in a demanding practice environment and ways to prevent burnout. Other modules provide ways to help reduce risk factors for burnout, such as improving work flow through team documentation, expanded rooming and discharge protocols, pre-visit planning, and synchronized prescription renewal.
AMA Wire® also shared tips from a physician burnout expert, who explained how physicians can boost satisfaction in their personal lives and practices during a presentation at the 2015 AMA Annual Meeting in June.
For residents, meanwhile, some training programs are figuring out ways to conquer burnout. Learn how one program was able to achieve wellness and work-life balance for its residents. And some creative approaches are starting to take hold as well.
On the medical student end, we also spoke to a burnout expert who explained the concept of “student distress” and how this can be avoided in medical school.
Addressing burnout before it starts
Clearly, burnout has become a widespread problem for the medical profession. But it doesn’t have to be every physician’s fate. And there’s good news for the next generation of physicians as medical educators are making changes that should help prevent burnout before it becomes a problem.
Through the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative, a consortium of medical schools is implementing bold changes that will prepare students to thrive in today’s evolving practice environment. Just last month, 21 additional schools joined the now 32-school consortium in innovative work aimed at transforming undergraduate medical education.
The consortium will soon support training for an estimated 19,000 medical students, and the consortium will rapidly disseminate best practices to other medical schools across the country.
What’s coming next?
In addition to the projects these medical schools will be tackling next year, organizations will be undertaking efforts to help beat burnout across the physician community, from first-year medical students to physicians who have been in practice for decades. Some of these efforts include:
- The AMA adopted policy that is aimed at ensuring physicians in training have access to potentially life-saving mental health services.
- The ACGME is working on solutions for resident wellness that can be implemented in training programs across the board.
- The STEPS Forward™ collection, part of the AMA’s Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability initiative, will be releasing additional modules to help physicians with proven solutions for their lives and practices. Existing solutions include preventing physician burnout, addressing resident and fellow burnout, and improving physician resiliency.