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Collaborating to Manage Physician Burnout

Collaborating to Manage Physician Burnout

Research has shown that physician burnout is a growing epidemic throughout the United States. “In medicine, high levels of burnout have been found among both physicians and nurses in many studies spanning a wide range of specialties,” says Lillian L. Emlet, MD, MS, FACEP, FCCM. The ramifications of burnout are significant and can include decreased patient satisfaction with care from their physicians, increased risks for medical errors and litigation, and reduced quality of life for clinicians, among others. A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine tested an intervention involving a facilitated physician small-group curriculum to see if it improved well-being. The intervention involved a small group curriculum for physicians that met for 19 sessions. The sessions lasted 1 hour and were conducted on a biweekly basis for 9 months. The hypothesis is that the intervention would improve physician well-being when compared with giving physicians 1 hour of protected time biweekly. In each of the sessions, physicians discussed topics such as meaning in work, empowerment and engagement in work, burnout, symptoms of depression, quality of life, and job satisfaction. The analysis concluded that the intervention led to improvements on meaning and engagement in work and reduced depersonalization, findings that were sustained when assessed at 12 months. However, the authors observed no statistically significant differences in stress, symptoms of depression, overall quality of life, or job satisfaction among participating physicians.   A Thorough Critique In an issue of Critical Care, Dr. Emlet and Matthew Siedsma, MD, critiqued the aforementioned study and described its pros and cons. “The study was well designed and provided 12 months of follow-up to ensure there was...
Alcohol Abuse Among Physicians: Taking Control

Alcohol Abuse Among Physicians: Taking Control

Physicians, like many adults in the general public, enjoy drinking an alcoholic beverage in a socially-appropriate context when they are not taking call. But what happens when casual drinking becomes a problem? Nine out of 10 doctors recognize when they’ve reached their alcohol limit and stop drinking. However, an estimated 10% of doctors allow alcohol to adversely affect their overall well-being, health, and medical practices (1). The National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests a man—younger than 65 years of age—not have more than 14 drinks a week, and a woman—who is not pregnant or attempting to become pregnant—not exceed more than seven drinks per week (2). If you or a colleague drink more than that, an unhealthy drinking habit may be emerging. Rigorously honest self-evaluation or peer-reporting is the next necessary step to avoid developing more serious issues of alcoholism. Reporting Harmful Behaviors Benefits the Medical Community The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics, considered the most widely accepted ethics guide for physicians, requires all doctors to promote personal health and wellness and to promptly inform relevant authorities of an impaired or incompetent colleague (3). Yet, one in three (36%) physicians surveyed in a recent national poll said they’ve had firsthand knowledge of a physician struggling with drug and/or alcohol misuse and yet did nothing. Some of the reasons these surveyed doctors gave for ignoring harmful behaviors included: “someone else would take care of the problem,” “nothing would happen as a result of the report,” “fear of retribution,” and feelings of being ill-prepared to deal with an unstable colleague (4). If we are to continue safeguarding patients’ care...
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