Managing Physician Well-Being and Burnout: A Conversation with the AdventHealth Team

Managing Physician Well-Being and Burnout: A Conversation with the AdventHealth Team February 11, 2022

Provider burnout is real, and many health systems are working to mitigate those factors that often drive front line staff out of the medical field.

Edward Shin, MD, the CEO and co-founder of Quality Reviews spoke with the Physician Well-Being team at AdventHealth. That includes Leila Durr, PhD, Mary Dijkstra, and Michael Torres, MD, MBA, FAAPL. The Physician Well Being program started in February 2020. However, according to psychologist Leila Durr, AdventHealth has made the mental health of frontline staff a priority since the 1990’s. That started with spiritual support aided by chaplains, but since the pandemic, “We wanted to also provide the mental health, the emotional mental support for these health care providers. Given the epidemic of physician burnout that was already happening long before the pandemic, we really wanted to just make that more of a priority.”

“Healthcare is a team sport.”

AdventHealth employs many strategies for improving burnout rates for clinicians, as well as creating a less stressful atmosphere. They use team building events to facilitate a more synergistic environment. Dr. Michael Torres explains, “Healthcare is a team sport, but physicians are taught to be islands.”

Torres says that a major strategy in getting to the bottom of negative behavior means approaching wellness instead of immediately jumping to punitive corrections. Helping staff to unpack their negative encounters can also provide insight that sheds light on the work environment, not just a clinician’s risk of burnout.

That is part of Durr’s role, and she often brings in therapists and works on de-stressing techniques when they are needed. A newsletter also goes out to departments to give staff a constant reminder of where they can go if they need support.

“Burnout is not a diagnosis, and it should never be approached like that.”

Durr’s background is psychology, and she notes that working with doctors is a different experience than working with other patients. She believes that “burnout” is stigmatizing for many, because it implies that something is wrong with you. “Doctors have personality traits that include components of being very driven to the point of perfectionism, and being very thorough and committed to their patients.”

A major part of that perfectionism comes from the expectations that society has. Society has declared that if you have a diagnosis, there is a treatment, and that treatment will cure you. However, that isn’t always the way medicine works. Not only that, but moral injury and not having the power to perform the best procedure immediately (without insurance and procedural barriers) is taxing as well. COVID-19 has exacerbated that even further.

Because of this, Durr spends quite a bit of time reiterating the importance of self-care. “Even though they preach a lot of self-care to their patients––and they preach very correctly––they don’t practice it for themselves. So one of my soapboxes that I get on with our physicians is that self care is part of patient care.”

“Personal resilience is only 20% of what causes burnout.”

Durr explains that, while doctors do need to practice self-care and maintain boundaries, organizational factors make up 80%. The organization’s practices may be a huge part, but so can a trickle down effect from the national level all the way down to a physician’s own teammates.

She encourages doctors to find out about resources available to them, and to communicate concerns with their higher-ups. Further, these higher-ups should already be developing strategies to ease the burdens of the frontline workers.

Torres also recommends that doctors set boundaries to protect their mental health. “I encourage physicians to actually draw lines to what they’re willing and not willing to do, and what they are willing to get involved with.”

He says that helps the team to carry each other, instead of one person silently suffering through a heavier load; though he acknowledges how tough expressing your needs can be. “It takes a lot for someone to be able to admit that they don’t have the bandwidth.”

author

Jill Yarberry

Vice President, Patient Experience

Jill has 20 years’ experience in healthcare business development and operations. Prior to joining Quality Reviews®, Jill worked in the healthcare industry where she has been responsible for developing and implementing the sales strategy, market research, and business development to meet and exceed sales growth projections.

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