Combating Physician Burnout During (and After) the Pandemic
The masks are off in many communities! And it’s starting to feel like the pandemic is finally coming to a close. While the media is covering stories like new virus strains and surges in infection rates, they are largely ignoring a lingering crisis: healthcare workers are burned out.
“You end up kind of losing that idea of caring for people, because you’re just so exhausted constantly, you know, it’s more about coming in, getting your job done,” said one doctor during a study about emotional health done by Social Science and Medicine journal. Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers in the U.S. are increasingly feeling the effects of a chaotic, broken system, coming home stressed and frustrated at the end of every work day. This exhaustion has led many to consider leaving their practice altogether: nearly 30% of healthcare workers have contemplated quitting in the wake of the pandemic.
But physician burnout was already at an all-time high before COVID-19 became a reality. Many healthcare organizations have tried to help by encouraging things like exercise classes, social events, and relaxation techniques. Unfortunately, these measures don’t have any effect on burnout rates. They don’t address the cause of burnout, just the symptoms, and only for a time. As our physicians struggle to stay happy, healthy and motivated, two things are clear:
- The current healthcare system is not working.
- Mental health is a big issue for clinicians.
A Different Care Model
We all know that some patients are harder to care for than others. The clinic model may work well for most people, but what about the patient who takes 30 minutes to step on a scale? Or who doesn’t have access to transportation to make it to the appointment at all?
We need to reduce the burden of caring for patients living with serious illness – who are not yet appropriate for hospice. The current system often fails these patients. They end up in the emergency room for problems that could have been treated at home or avoided altogether.
Home-based medical care companies like Prospero are filling this crucial gap. Proper care requires more than just a nurse doing their rounds. Prospero partners with community physicians to identify and care for these patients. We provide an expert team, use leading technology, and take the time to build trust with patients and their families. This solution ensures that these patients receive all of the services they need to stay safe and healthy without ever having to leave the comfort of their own home. Doctors partner with Prospero because we alleviate many of the after-hours calls and burdens that tend to fall on doctors and their staff, and they know their patients receive high-quality care at home.
Physician Mental Health Support
Lisa Vitucci, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Prospero, emphasizes that self-care is the most important care. That goes for physicians, too. It’s like being on an airplane when the oxygen mask comes down — you need to help yourself before you help others. Unfortunately, many physicians suffer in silence, worried that they will not be able to renew their license or that they will be looked down on by colleagues if they seek help. This has been especially difficult during the pandemic. Isolation, infection risks, and financial troubles have made it even more stressful to continue practicing medicine.
Fortunately, perception is shifting when it comes to physician mental health. Many licensing boards are no longer asking about personal mental health history. Additionally, many healthcare leaders are embracing new attitudes. They are trying to reduce stigma and encourage their doctors to speak up when they need support. More and more, administrators are acknowledging that patients can’t be at their best until their physicians are at their best.
Changing The Way You Practice Medicine
Remember, we are all in this together. Let’s learn from what COVID-19 has shown us, and change healthcare for the better. It starts with physicians taking care of themselves so they can continue to take care of everyone else.
Prospero is a home-based medical care provider that collaborates with a patient’s existing physicians and specialists to co-manage care for people who are elderly and frail or who have multiple serious health issues. Reach out anytime if you’re interested in learning more or seeing if your patients are eligible.
- Morgantini LA, Naha U, Wang H, et al. Factors contributing to healthcare professional burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic: A rapid turnaround global survey. PLoS One. 2020;15(9):e0238217. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0238217
- Crowe S, Brugha R. “We’ve all had patients who’ve died …”: Narratives of emotion and ideals of competence among junior doctors. Soc Sci Med. 2018;215:152-159. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.08.037
- Wan W. Burned out by the pandemic, 3 in 10 health-care workers consider leaving the profession. The Washington Post. 22 Apr 2021. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/04/22/health-workers-covid-quit/
- Hartzband P, Groopman J. Physician Burnout, Interrupted. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(26):2485-2487. doi:10.1056/NEJMp2003149
- Weiner S. Doctors forgo mental health care during pandemic over concerns about licensing, stigma. AAMC. 10 Dec 2020. Available from: https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/doctors-forgo-mental-health-care-during-pandemic-over-concerns-about-licensing-stigma