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Saturday Oct 03, 2020

Five ways to fight system-induced distress before it causes burnout

There’s a lot of talk these days about physician burnout. But “system-induced distress” might be a more accurate term because it puts the blame for professional discontent squarely where it belongs: on the broken health care system.

The system expects physicians to treat unrealistically high volumes of patients to make up for its own inefficiencies, according to Jay Winner, a family physician who writes and speaks on physician stress and well-being, and Clif Knight, a family physician and senior vice president for education at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Meanwhile, the system inflicts moral injury on physicians by failing to give them the resources to deliver high-quality, equitable care.

But there are ways physicians can fight back. Winner and Knight recommend a multilevel approach:

Physician culture level — Physicians often expect too much of themselves, and each other. By showing compassion toward colleagues, staff, residents, and students, and being willing to seek counseling when they need it (before they’re at wit’s end), they can mold a healthier work culture.

Individual level — Given the stresses that the system places on doctors, it’s imperative to understand and employ stress management techniques such as mindfulness, reframing, and gratitude.

Practice level — Maximize your team to minimize your stress. That means delegating some documentation duties and using other efficiency strategies. Examples are available through the American Medical Association’s Steps Forward(edhub.ama-assn.org) program or AAFP TIPS.

Organizational level — Physicians should seek leadership roles in their organizations and push back, whenever possible, when organizations waste their time on tasks that don’t specifically require a physician’s expertise.

Health care system level — Physicians can become outspoken advocates for reforms the system clearly needs, such as reduced paperwork and documentation burdens, fairer compensation for primary care, and better social supports for patients.


Read the full FPM article: “Beyond Burnout: Addressing System-Induced Distress."

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Posted at 11:45PM Oct 03, 2020 by FPM Editors

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