Clinician Burnout: Perspectives, Stories, and Solutions

Percentage of healthcare executives who say burnout is a top concern

Source: The Doctors Company Executive
Advisory Board

Growing administrative demands and distractions in our complex healthcare system conflict with how clinicians want to provide care—contributing to alarming rates of burnout and potentially leading to more adverse events and compromising patient safety. In our recent Future of Healthcare Survey of over 3,400 physicians nationwide, 7 out of 10 doctors were unwilling to recommend healthcare as a profession to their children or other family members.

We are committed to helping reverse the trends associated with clinician burnout by sharing information and tools that address some of the known causes.

Alert: New 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now 988, a new three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care.

Burnout from COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals have shown great courage by adapting to unprecedented conditions and laboring tirelessly to provide patient care. But these extreme circumstances have frequently led to burnout and to even more serious consequences, such as suicide.

Burnout Can Affect How Patients Communicate

If a physician appears burned out, patients may avoid asking questions for fear of adding to the stress.

A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being

The Doctors Company Foundation provided funding support for this important report from the National Academy of Medicine on preventing and mitigating clinician burnout.

Reduce Clinician Burnout and Improve Well-Being With People-First Leadership

Solving burnout requires a comprehensive organizational commitment and people-first leaders who have the tenacity to change systems and deliver solutions.

Exploring Solutions to Physician Burnout

Reducing physician burnout requires understanding the multiple root causes and action from individual physicians, institutional clinic leadership, electronic health record software designers, and healthcare regulators. Explore the factors behind the growing physician burnout crisis and what can be done to address them.

Reducing Burnout with Teamwork

A recent study by the National Academy of Medicine found that team-based healthcare is linked to improved physician well-being, which is foundational to effective and efficient healthcare. Our Team-Building INSIGHT Service helps practices build highly effective teams through customized training.

Terminating Patient Relationships

Just as it is an acceptable and reasonable practice to screen incoming patients, it is acceptable and reasonable to know when to end patient relationships that are no longer therapeutic. It is critical, however, that the physician end the patient relationship in a manner that will not lead to claims of discrimination or abandonment.

Remembering Why You Became a Physician

A plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Texas describes his Wall—a place in his office where he keeps notes and cards from patients. It’s a place where he can go to remember, during difficult times, all he has been able to achieve and accomplish over the years.

Overcoming the Stress of Malpractice Litigation

A typical doctor spends nearly 11 percent of a 40-year career with open malpractice claims, with many claims taking years to resolve. Facing a malpractice lawsuit is one of the most trying experiences a physician can encounter—the fear of lawsuits and the stress of resolving a claim is a significant contributor to physician burnout.

Fixing the EHR to Combat Physician Burnout

The Doctors Company Board member Robert Wachter, MD, explains how the EHR contributes to burnout.

Distracting Devices and Burnout

Distraction by digital devices can be both a symptom of and a contributor to healthcare provider stress and burnout. As a symptom of burnout, digital distraction is a way to escape a stressful environment. As a contributor to burnout, digital distraction impedes human interaction because of the sheer volume of data demanding our attention.

You are not alone

If you need help, support is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call: 988

Foundation Supports Study on Clinician Burnout

A grant by The Doctors Company Foundation is helping to address the high rates of burnout reported among U.S. clinicians, students, and trainees. The Foundation’s 2018 grant sponsored Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being, a consensus study by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) on systems approaches to improve patient care by supporting clinician well-being. NAM’s final report, released in late 2019, examines the scientific evidence regarding the causes of clinician burnout and the consequences for both clinicians and patients. The report also provides interventions to support clinician well-being and resilience, as well as a research agenda to address gaps in the evidence base.

Our Commitment

The Doctors Company has always been guided by our mission: to advance, protect, and reward the practice of good medicine.

As healthcare delivery continues to undergo rapid change, those who practice medicine have never been under greater pressure. Contradictory regulations, a rapidly-changing payment system, expanding reporting mandates, and ever-present cyber threats all combine to jeopardize the doctor-patient relationship.

That’s why we are dedicated to helping doctors and practices anticipate issues ahead and to being a strong, proactive partner for those delivering care.

We recognize how the growing administrative demands and distractions rooted in our complex healthcare system conflict with how physicians and others want to provide care. This conflict contributes to alarming rates of clinician stress and burnout—potentially leading to more medical errors and the potential for patient harm.

We are committed to reversing the trends associated with clinician stress by sharing information and tools that address some of the known causes of stress and burnout. This includes publishing data-driven claims studies to provide insight into allegations and contributing factors underlying lawsuits and, most importantly, the strategies that can prevent harm to patients and mitigate risks of litigation. We also recognize that physicians may be sued or have a report filed with their medical board. Accordingly, we provide education to help our members understand the legal process and cope with the stress that lawsuits impose on practices, personal lives, and close relationships.

Digital health innovation, industry consolidation, new technology, and regulation are some of the factors that change the way physicians and practice managers deliver care. The Doctors Company will continue to work with our members, advisory groups, and other experts to develop resources to help members manage these changes—by building healthier work environments with highly functional clinical teams, effective processes, and strong communication. Our efforts will continue to support physicians, nurses, and other clinicians so they can provide care that aligns with their professional ethic and caregiving mission.

We believe we should serve the medical profession by partnering with those who provide care—so that doctors can focus on making decisions based on the best outcomes for patients, rather than on threats of litigation, invasive regulation, or financial loss. An unwavering commitment to clinician well-being is essential to optimizing quality of care and patient safety.

The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.