How to address burnout and improve resilience amid COVID-19: 5 takeaways from a physician-driven discussion

Before the widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the U.S., 42 percent of physicians were feeling "burned out," according to a survey of more than 15,000 physicians published in January. As the pandemic rages on, increased workload and stress levels, longer hours and risk of exposure continue to take a mental, physical and emotional toll on healthcare workers across the country.

During a July 30 webinar sponsored by ApolloMD and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, three ApolloMD leaders discussed challenges associated with COVID-19, key components of moral injury (burnout) and the importance of professional and personal development for clinicians.

ApolloMD leaders included:

  • Michael Lipscomb, MD, Chief Quality & Patient Safety Officer
  • Yogin Patel, MD, President
  • Evan Howell, PA-C, Chief Clinical Operations Officer

Five takeaways from the webinar:

1. Physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession in the U.S., equating to about one suicide every day. The number of physician suicides is more than twice that of the general population. "The ramifications of physician suicide go beyond the physician and physicians' families directly to the patients that we care for," Dr. Lipscomb said. "The problem becomes worse when we're under crisis."

2. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges for front-line healthcare workers. ApolloMD's Personal Sigma Initiative championed the "purpose and recognition" principle to reinforce the resolve of providers caring for patients during the crisis, Mr. Howell said. The organization set up a daily medical director and lead advanced practice clinician call, and an operations team call, which enabled local and executive leadership to engage in "up-to-the-minute discussion" on challenges front-line teams were facing. Additionally, regularly scheduled Zoom conferences were implemented with APC teams to provide peer support, individual recognition and transparency.

3. A key element of burnout is not just stress, "but prolonged uncontrolled stress with no support," Dr. Lipscomb said. "We need the time, the tools and the support to control it to prevent burnout and depression." 

4. How you motivate clinicians directly ties into their performance, according to Dr. Patel, as well as their efficiency, resilience and satisfaction. "You want happy clinicians and clinicians want to do things because they matter," he said. "The ideal praise to criticism ratio is nearly 6-to-1. We're committed to listening to our [clinicians], helping them map out their journey and recognizing the good work they do." 

5. Professional development effectively stops for many clinicians when they start clinical practice, Dr. Patel said. To counter this, ApolloMD developed its Live Well to Lead Well campaign, which features custom coaching sessions, webinars with exercises to combat stress and promotes dialogue around common challenges clinicians experience. 

Click here to learn more about ApolloMD. To view the full webinar, click here.

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