As a healthcare provider, you know how devastating burnout can be on a personal, professional, and organizational level. While burnout is “largely attributed to organizational and systemic factors,” says the AMA, preventing or alleviating that burnout is often yet another responsibility put on individual practitioners. The most important factors of physician wellness are much bigger than any single provider.
Factor 1: Intrinsic Motivation
Physicians innately rely on intrinsic motivation. It’s internal factors that make medicine—a difficult job even in the best of circumstances—rewarding, rather than external ones. This motivation can be identified in other demanding professions as well, like teachers and athletes. However, wellness programs often use extrinsic motivation, like financial incentives and other rewards, to encourage physicians and other clinicians to make healthy choices with the goal of mitigating burnout. Perhaps unexpectedly, extrinsic motivation can lower intrinsic motivation and actually increase the risk of burnout.
To rebuild intrinsic motivation in today’s physicians, their employers must allow for “autonomy, competence, and relatedness.” Allowing (or even encouraging) advanced practitioners to treat and connect with patients in the ways they see fit is not compatible with much of the United States’ current healthcare system.
With burnout reaching epidemic proportions, the following actions may be worth considering:
- Eliminate mandates with no evidence-based support
- Improve the patient/provider relationship with more flexible scheduling and a focus on medicine rather than the political, legal, and financial implications of necessary care
- Delegating necessary tasks that reduce autonomy where possible, such as using assistants, scribes, or technology to enter patient data
Factor 2: Organizational Support
The importance of high quality mental health care in the battle against burnout cannot be overstated. Yet, physicians and other healthcare professionals often do not seek out this care for a myriad of reasons. Organizations can not only make mental health care accessible but work to remove the stigma of using it among employees. Physicians may worry about the licensing and insurance implications of seeking mental health care. It is the responsibility of the industry and its employers to quell these concerns.
Other beneficial support mechanisms include, but are not limited to, structured: