According to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, physician burnout is at least equally responsible for medical errors, if not more so, than unsafe medical workplace conditions.
Physician burnout affects the quality of patient care and is a major threat to the healthcare delivery system. It is a growing problem with no easy solution.
Financial compensation is not the only reward to be taken into account. To provide a an attractive offer for physicians, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration:
- Work/life balance that allows for flexibility in scheduling.
- Physicians focus only on work that cannot be delegated and provide adequate support staff to handle other tasks.
- Realistic workload expectations. It is unrealistic to expect a physician to put in a 12 to 14 hour work day, followed by 3 hours of maintaining and updating Electronic Health Records (EHRs). EHR systems maintenance need to align better with physician workflow.
Female physicians are at a higher risk of burnout than their male counterparts. While the work environment for women has improved, there are still lingering unconscious biases against women developing their full potential. Even in a two-career couple, women often have to take on more responsibility at home. Female physicians can benefit from peer mentorship and group support.
If healthcare organizations want to attract and keep the best people, they need to alter the burnout trajectory for physicians. Hiring practices should not only focus on monetary compensation but also incorporate conditions that improve the work environment, and quality of life for the physician.