7 steps to prevent burnout in your practice

AMA Wire
Email this page

Physicians have been hearing a lot about burnout and how it can lead to cynicism, negative attitudes toward patients, exhaustion and the desire to quit practicing medicine. The good news is that you can make changes in your practice to reduce your risk of burnout—learn how.

A free online module, part of the AMA’s STEPS Forward website, shows you how to measure and respond to burnout in your practice. Follow these seven steps:

  • Establish wellness as a quality indicator - Burnout has a broad-reaching impact—on physicians, patients, the quality of care delivered and practice finances. Encourage your practice to establish physician wellness as a quality indicator that is regularly measured. The module has information about why preventing burnout should be a priority for your practice.
  • Start a wellness committee or choose a wellness champion - A wellness committee made up of clinicians (doctors, nurses and physician assistants) as well as administrators (finance and management staff) should work with organizational leaders on the issue. If you have a solo or small practice, a wellness champion may be a better option. The champion should be an individual in the organization who promotes the use of wellness resources and models positive behaviors. The module includes talking points for discussing this idea with practice leaders.
  • Distribute an annual wellness survey - The 10-item Zero Burnout Program survey, often called the “mini Z,” is short and easy to use. Distribute the survey annually to all clinicians in your practice. The mini Z can be completed individually online (use the module to access the link) or printed out.
  • Meet regularly with leaders to discuss data and interventions - The wellness committee or wellness champion can use the data from the mini Z to inform practice improvements and identify areas of greatest concern. The module offers ways to share the data and explains how to address naysayers who may not believe burnout matters.
  • Initiate selected interventions - Your practice can prioritize and select interventions to address burnout where it exists, from work flow redesign to better communication to quality improvement projects. The module includes extensive information about each of these three areas, examples of interventions and tactics to reduce burnout.
  • Repeat the survey to re-evaluate the situation - Compare stress and burnout scores from before and after any interventions. Develop an understanding of what worked and celebrate the successes, but don’t forget to examine aspects that remain unchanged or increased their contribution to burnout after the interventions.
  • Seek answers within data, refine the interventions and continue improvements - Once you determine what’s working, refocus on those interventions and reinvigorate staff to carry them out. The commitment of the wellness committee or champion can help convince clinicians that your practice is dedicated to staying on the path to improvement.

Remember—change is slow and steady. Small improvements can make a big difference in the day-to-day work lives of physicians, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t make big changes right away.

Read real-world stories in the module from physicians who implemented small improvements in their practices and saw big results. You also can find information about how to get support for intervention implementation. The module offers continuing medical education credit.

Here’s how to learn more

Email this page


It's a shame I have to pay dues to listen to this vacuous article. The reason for physician burn out is you're trying to make us work for free. If you're supposed to be my advocate I need to quit paying you money.<br/> To give you a list that includes the MOC, novel payment methods and government regulation. I'm getting out of medicine as soon as possible
Wow... are you kidding me??? the answer for burnout is to establish yet another "quality indicator" and find a "wellness champion" ???? <br/> What planet is the AMA on ???? <br/> And tell me where is the time to do this.... between "closing gaps", lowering costs, being told to be open evening and weekends, taking call, getting prior authorizations, and dealing with all the regulations, paperwork, EHR work , rising overhead, etc... Are you kidding me??? <br/> Please AMA, you really need to help us and be an advocate... otherwise, no one will join you, and you can sure bet that as more docs are employed by insurance companies they sure won't cover dues for you in their contracts... and you will not have a voice either.. This writer may mean well, but this is not helpful. Not at all. <br/> I'm out as soon as I can unless things change for the better .... now THAT will fix any burnout...
It is true that we are all working far longer and harder hours for far less money than previously. It seems as if meaningful use has not impacted patient care as much as it has changed to instantaneous demands from everyone from patients to the government. <br/> I cannot believe that a wellness champion can be sought in an already overworked office staff. The ONLY things that I have found that work for burnout is to 1) to recognize that we are human and can only do so much and 2) that we do make a difference.<br/> In our office we turn unrealistic expectations back to the patient. If they are unhappy with our services they are referred elsewhere. And we recap the positive lifesaving or life impacting events for the week. <br/> Of course more money would help but it will not eradicate burnout.
I could not agree more with prior comments.The options are ridiculous.why not address the sever issues we all face and determine a more effect deterrent.Our profession is under constant assault by everyone who thinks their are doctors but have no risk to bare.Perhaps all regulators and healthcare advisors should have malpractice liability along with us.
Thank you all for weighing in. Your comments confirm the urgency of addressing burnout. As a practicing physician myself, I understand how physicians can feel besieged by expectations and requirements from all angles. When solutions are offered, it can feel like "just one more thing."<br/> <br/> Your responses also confirm that the biggest source of burnout is external—not internal—which is why it is so important to focus attention on external physician environments, such as improving workflow efficiency, decreasing burdensome regulations and improving the usability of technology. <br/> <br/> The AMA is working hard on all of these fronts for you, including developing Steps Forward, a set of free, online practice transformation resources, advocating that the government pause Stage 3 of the meaningful use program and working with experts to make the design, implementation and regulation of EHRs better. <br/> <br/> Thanks again for your remarks.
It is a Federal Mandate to have interpreters for patients who do not speak the English language. The Physician is expected to see over 20-30 patients a day regardless of language barriers. By simple math, a 15 min encounter will be realistically about 30 min especially if patient has multiple complicated problems and being seen for the first time. Poor doctor has to complete work at home and will be working extra hours for free for being a salaried employee. What has AMA done to mitigate this extra hardship and burden placed at the expense of the doctor being mentally separated from his very own family? Could doctors be federally reimbursed for the extra time spent to accommodate federally mandated programs? Just being proficient in English is detrimental to job security which is a form of reverse discrimination. In addition, older doctors are slow data entry typist thus are realistically slow with the current electronic health records which add up to the stress of meeting the required load of patients to be seen in a day. AMA should be able to propose a special billing for the extra time doctors provide for non-English speakers to be able to afford to see lesser patients to reasonably be able to be off-work without bringing extra work at home and spend quality time with his/her own family. Currently, doctors are like professional slaves spending more time on mundane task dumped on the work-pile distracting doctors from doing direct patient care which are economically reimbursable. Unless the employers, the AMA, and the regulators empathize to the working environment and plight of doctors, our working condition will progressively become worse that the profession would eventually become hazardous to a practitioner's health and well being.
Show Comments (6)