Mayo's 9-point plan to reverse physician burnout

Researchers at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic have been documenting the increasing prevalence and costs of physician burnout for more than a decade. Now, they have developed nine strategies healthcare organizations can employ to remedy burnout and limit the potential risk burned out physicians pose to patients and fellow clinicians.

Tait Shanafelt, MD, director of Mayo Clinic's Program on Physician Well-being, and John Noseworthy, MD, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, outline the nine-point plan in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Research has shown that more than half of U.S. physicians are experiencing symptoms of burnout, and the rate is increasing," said Dr. Shanafelt, first author of the article. "Unfortunately, many organizations see burnout as a personal problem to be addressed by the individual physician. It is clear, however, that burnout is a system issue, and addressing it is the shared responsibility of both the individuals and healthcare organizations."

The organizational consequences of physician burnout can include stifled productivity, staff turnover, decreased quality of care and malpractice suits. On the individual level, burnout can lead to broken relationships, alcoholism and suicide.

"The reasons we need to reverse this trend in physician burnout are compelling," said Dr. Noseworthy. "Professional exhaustion and disillusionment can adversely impact clinical performance, and result in medical errors and decreased quality of care. This situation hurts patients and providers, and we need to fix it."

Here are the nine strategies organizations can take to combat burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic researchers.

  1. Acknowledge and assess the problem
  2. Recognize the behaviors of leaders that can increase or decrease burnout
  3. Use a systems approach to develop targeted interventions to improve efficiency and reduce clerical work for physicians
  4. Cultivate a stronger sense of community at work
  5. Use rewards and incentives strategically
  6. Assess whether the organizations actions are aligned with the stated values and mission
  7. Implement organizational practices and policies that promote flexibility and work-life balance
  8. Provide resources to help individuals promote self-care
  9. Support organizational science — identify the factors in the institution that contribute to the problem, and invest in solutions

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