Your health before all else.
One fact about health care that gets far too little attention is that the health care system does not just affect your patients, it affects you, too. More and more, family physicians report feeling dissatisfied in their profession and disconnected from their purpose. You face more challenges than ever in delivering high-quality patient care. Regulatory burdens, documentation requirements, practice inefficiencies, and a culture of physician self-sacrifice all get in the way of serving patients. The consequences of so many burdens can lead to physician burnout and poor patient outcomes.
Burnout is “a psychological syndrome in response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”1 Burnout is a critical issue for us because family physicians suffer from significantly higher rates of burnout than physicians in most other specialties.2,3 Nearly two-thirds of family physicians experience at least one element of burnout, with the specialty's women suffering burnout more than men. Early and mid-career physicians are at greatest risk.
Nothing is more important than physician well-being, and these tools and resources will help you stay passionate about your purpose: providing high-quality care. The Physician Health First initiative is devoted to improving your well-being and professional satisfaction by addressing the causes of physician burnout, including the broken U.S. health care system, the organizations employing physicians, the practice environment, individual well-being, and a physician culture of self-sacrifice over self-care.
This resource, built specifically for family physicians like you, addresses all aspects of physician well-being: approaches for creating a culture of well-being, tools to make you an effective leader, steps to reduce burnout, and ways to prioritize self-care and prevent suicide.
Taking deliberate steps to create an optimal clinical practice culture in which you can thrive can improve patient care, your quality of life, and the sustainability of your practice. You can learn both operational skills—focused on areas like practice structure, efficiency, and teamwork—and relational skills—with an eye on aspects of well-being such as treatment of colleagues and patients, reflection, and self-awareness—as well as leadership skills to help you solve problems, build relationships, empower others, and set realistic goals.
Reducing administrative burden allows you to focus on what really matters—your patients. Reduce burnout and find joy in practice through team-based care, practice improvements, and innovations that will improve efficiencies and reduce your work after clinic.
In order to take care of your patients, you first have to care for yourself. Fortunately, there are resources to help you take action to help improve your own well-being, including establishing healthy eating habits, assessing and improving your sleep, practicing mindfulness, and taking deliberate steps to increase happiness with tools like meditation and exercise.
You are not alone. Whether you are seeking help for yourself, trying to help a colleague in crisis, or are coping with loss, you will find assistance here. In addition to emergency hotlines, suicide prevention toolkits and information about combating mental health stigma can make a difference.
A portion of the Suicide Prevention resources were made possible thanks to the generousity of the AAFP Foundation.
1. Maslach C, Schaufeli WB, Leiter MP. Job burnout. Annu Rev Psychol. 2001;52:397-422.
2. Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(12):1600-1613.
3. Medscape Lifestyle Report 2017.