More doctors are suffering from fatigue, and health systems must do more

A panel of doctors said it was not about building more flexibility. Health organizations need to save resources and reduce the burden on their physicians.

More and more doctors are experiencing burnout, and it has become a major concern for healthcare leaders.

Medical fatigue has reached a new level, according to A study Posted in Mayo Clinic procedures. Researchers reported that 63% of physicians experienced fatigue in 2021, compared to 38.2% in 2020. The American Medical Association collaborated with researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Colorado School of Medicine on the study.

Health Affairs She hosted a virtual roundtable on Thursday with several healthcare leaders. Alan Will Health Affairs The editor-in-chief asked the participants, all clinicians, about treating burnout.

Some members stressed one point at the beginning of the discussion. They have focused more on the need to make structural changes, in health organizations and policy, than on strengthening physicians.

“The problem is not a lack of flexibility in individual clinicians,” said Kristen Sensky, AMA Vice President for Occupational Satisfaction.

Policy makers pay more attention to the well-being of physicians and other health care workers. President Joe Biden signed a law this year that directs grants to health care organizations to address burnout and mental health. Health groups pushed for the bill, called the Lorna Breen Act, after an emergency doctor died by suicide in April 2020, early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

organizational challenge

Committee members agreed on the importance of understanding that fatigue is different from mental illness.

“Fatigue is not a mental illness,” Sensky said. “It’s an occupational distress syndrome.”

Doctors, including panelists, cited a range of factors that contribute to fatigue, including The stress of treating COVID-19 patients for more than two years. The growing shortage of staff is increasing the burden of doctors, especially as health systems are now witnessing Patients who postponed care during the pandemic and are now fully sick.

However, some of the burdens are more familiar, including the stress of documentation and hassles of dealing with electronic medical record systems. Committee members said doctors are spending more of their time outside of work dealing with documentation for patient records.

Samuel T. said: Edwards, MD, associate professor of medicine at Oregon Hilty University and Physician at Portland’s Veterans Affairs System, said, “Burnout is both an individual practice and phenomenon.”

“Burnout is a phenomenon at the organizational level that requires a response at the organizational level,” Edwards said.

Many doctors do not feel as though their employers are concerned about their safety. Just over one in three physicians (36%) said their workplace culture prioritizes their well-being, according to exploratory study It was released earlier this month by the Physicians Foundation.

Amy Freeman, chief health officer at Hackensack Meridian Health, said health care organizations need to provide resources for their doctors to get help, but they should make sure doctors know what help is available.

“It’s not just about having access to resources…it’s about making sure that clinicians are aware of those resources, but more importantly that they’re comfortable with accessing those resources,” Freeman said.

Many physicians remain concerned about seeking help for their mental health because they are concerned that it could have harmful professional repercussions, including for their licensing. Nearly 4 in 10 said they were either afraid or knew someone who was wary of seeking help due to questions about license or insurance applications. At the behest of health advocates, some licensing boards have modified mental health questions.

Team members agreed that reducing administrative burdens on clinicians would go a long way toward helping with their well-being. a Medscape A survey of physicians in January 2022 found that bureaucratic aspects of health care emerged as a major contributing factor to burnout.

“Our doctors are incredibly overburdened and frustrated when it comes to documentation,” Freeman said.

The AMA study found that physicians find less fulfillment in their work, largely due to burnout. Just over half of physicians (57.5%) said they would choose a career as a physician if they could do so again, compared to 72.2% in 2020.

Burden on women doctors of color

Committee members agreed that female doctors suffer in particular from fatigue. More than two out of three female doctors (68%) said they experienced fatigue, compared to 58% of male doctors, according to the Physicians Foundation survey.

“We’re seeing high rates of women getting burnout and leaving the workforce,” said Vineet Arora, MD, professor of medicine and dean of medical education at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Female doctors have suffered greater professional setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemicAccording to a study published in open gamma network. Female doctors were more likely to have conflicts at work and depressive symptoms, while also dealing with childcare duties. Women were more likely to have reduced working hours.

There is a glaring lack of data on mental health and doctors of color, said Rachel Villanueva, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. She said this underscores the need to “diversify the research and the need for color seekers,” as well as the need to find more researchers who are at least at least interested in the challenges faced by clinicians of color.

Black doctors and physicians in other underrepresented groups bear the same hassles of administrative duties and long working hours. However, clinicians belonging to minority groups also face “systemic racism”, as well as micro-assaults and prejudice.

Doctors ‘deserve better’

Although doctors are increasingly dealing with burnout, there is no clear evidence that it is detrimental to patient care, said Lawrence Casalino, MD, professor of health care policy and research at Weill Cornell Medical College. Casalino was the principal author of a modern book study in Health Affairs on how physician burnout affects patient outcomes.

“In the short-term at least, physicians’ exhausted patients may get better quality,” Casalino said. “Caring physicians may work more seriously than other physicians and may worry more about their patients, and they may be more likely to be overwhelmed.”

However, he added, “How long this can go is another question.”

Physicians Foundation worked with Lorna Brin Foundation To raise awareness of the need to protect the mental health of doctors. They also created a campaign, Vital Signs, to prevent doctor suicide.

It’s part of a grieving fraternity, said Gary Price, president of the Physicians Foundation. He is among the many doctors who have lost a colleague to suicide.

“It is undeniable that our doctors need and deserve better,” Price said.

Help is available

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