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Taking a Community Approach to Combating Burnout

     

Addressing the problem of physician burnout has become one of the most pressing issues in medicine, and for good reason.

Feelings of burnout for a physician can have an adverse impact on our relationships with our patients, our ability to deliver high quality care and our personal lives. That is why the American Psychiatric Association is taking the lead in promoting physician well-being and addressing individual and systemic challenges that contribute to burnout.

Physicians experience burnout in a variety of different ways, for different reasons and at different points in their careers. Some contributing factors include excessive productivity quotas, complex electronic medical records documentation, limits on the time physicians can spend with each patient, professional isolation and educational debt. Other factors, such as personal losses or relationship strife and other events are not necessarily unique to physicians, but impact their lives and practice all the same.

My work with APA’s Workgroup on Psychiatrist Well-Being and Burnout has shown that this is a very prevalent issue for medicine and for psychiatry and that there are a multiple effective ways our members can use to identify and then address the risks of burnout so that we have better professional and personal well-being. Our APA Board of Trustees workgroup group has done amazing work, alongside APA staff, to create an online portal where psychiatrists can find resources for combating burnout and promoting well-being.

We all experience stress at one time or another, but not all of us take the time to reflect on the things that act as stressors in our lives, and what we can do to change them. With this in mind, the Workgroup on Psychiatrist Well-being and Burnout has produced an online Wellness Self-Assessment tool that encourages users to think about what kinds of changes in their work and personal lives could be helpful to them in avoiding burnout. I encourage everyone to take a bit of time and use this anonymous assessment tool, as the results will assist the members who take it as well as assist our APA in creating products that will help our members address burnout. So far more than 1,000 of our members have taken this online tool. I have had positive feedback from members who shared that what they learned about themselves was very useful in quantifying their situation and in developing pro-wellbeing strategies.

The portal also links to APA’s dedicated Well-being Resources page. This page contains a wealth of resources from APA and allied groups that can be extremely helpful for both individuals and anyone looking to improve well-being on an organizational level. We also believe that increased engagement with our district branches and with APA activity or activity with other professional organizations can be a component of increasing professional well-being. Having a sense of community with other psychiatrists and professionals that are joined together to address a cause or project that aims to impact and improve our field can be very rejuvenating.

The APA Toolkit for Well-being Ambassadors is especially valuable for anyone looking to advocate for systemic reform in their home institution, District Branch or organization. The slide deck is highly customizable, making it easy to tailor your presentation to the needs of your organization. A frank dialogue about the things that cause us stress and dissatisfaction and contribute to burnout will be key in improving well-being for people working in all levels of medical care. This toolkit will help you start that conversation with your colleagues.

While these tools and resources are helpful, it is still easy to develop feelings of isolation, a major cause and effect of burnout, especially when working long hours with infrequent breaks. If you find yourself feeling burned out, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and that talking with your colleagues and friends about how you are feeling can be a really rewarding and refreshing experience. A strong sense of community and purpose is almost always part of the prescription for promoting greater well-being. Go visit https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/well-being-and-burnout and start on your path to well-being today!

     

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