Is Your Hospital's Physician Lounge a Ghost Town?

Hospitals' physician lounges used to be places where physicians could catch up with each other on their personal lives, compare notes on patients and discuss hospital politics. But somewhere along the line, the lounges grew deserted, according to a report in The Atlantic.

If a hospital still does have a physician lounge today, it increasingly represents "a place where physicians are alone," according to the report, written by Atlantic correspondent Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD. Today, physicians might visit the lounge to tend to paperwork or dictate discharge summaries. The space is no longer the hub for building relationships with colleagues.

The lounge was once a base of operations for physicians who came to the hospital to round on patients or perform procedures, according to Dr. Gunderman. "They would show up there at odd times throughout the day, pick up their white coat, grab a cup of coffee or just rest for a few minutes. Most of all, they talked to one another. Many senior physicians recall the doctors' lounge as the most important hub of medical collegiality in the hospital," he wrote.

Physician workloads have grown from year to year, electronic paperwork has become more time-consuming and the sheer complexity of medicine has increased, as well. The combination of these factors means physicians have less time for "non-urgent interaction," according to Dr. Gunderman.

But the decline of the physician lounge also means young physicians are facing higher rates of dissatisfaction and burnout. Without a place to interact regularly with their colleagues, physicians are increasingly facing a profession that "resembles a collection of silos," according to the report. This can breed turf wars, distrust and even antagonism.

Dr. Gunderman concluded by noting the medical field needs to better promote interdisciplinary interaction. He also brought the issue back to patients' perceptions. "If I were a patient choosing a hospital, I would want to know if it had a lively doctors' lounge," he wrote.

"Is it simply a bunch of doctors being alone together, or is it marked by fruitful conversations? If the doctor's lounge were buzzing, I would take comfort from knowing that the medical staff is probably relatively vibrant, cohesive and capable of providing better care."

More Articles on Physician Engagement:

Nearly Half of U.S. Physicians Battle Burnout, Study Finds
12 Specialties With the Most Burned-Out Physicians
3 Essentials for Active Physician Engagement

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