Interventions to Prevent and Reduce Physician Burnout

Peter M. Yellowlees, MBBS, MD


August 01, 2017

This is the Medscape Psychiatry Minute. I'm Dr Peter Yellowlees.

Physician burnout has reached epidemic levels, with negative effects on patient care, professionalism, physicians' own care and safety, and the viability of healthcare systems. Now a team of investigators[1] from the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, have undertaken a systematic review to better understand how to prevent and reduce burnout. The researchers identified 52 high-quality randomized or cohort studies including 3630 physicians and found that overall burnout scores decreased from 54% to 44%, while emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores also decreased significantly. The researchers concluded that both individual-focused and organizational strategies can result in clinically meaningful reductions in burnout among physicians. They noted that further research is needed to establish which interventions are most effective in specific populations, as well as how individual and organizational solutions might be combined to deliver even greater improvements in physician well-being.

So where does this leave us? With lifetime physician burnout rates in most studies at the 30%-40% level and a robust literature identifying the need for both individual and organizational solutions, we cannot wait for more research. We know that burnout is bad for patient care, is harmful to physicians, and is a common precursor to clinical disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. Changing our work habits and practices is no longer a choice. We also have to make our workplaces more fun and less stressful so that we can all return to the joy of medicine.

Thank you for listening to this Medscape Psychiatry Minute. Do take action on this issue with your colleagues and continue to enjoy your practice.


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