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Physician Tips

Let’s Talk About Physician Burnout

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By: Amy Frieman, M.D., MBA, FAAHPM
Chief Wellness Officer

Reach out to Dr. Frieman at amy.frieman@hackensackmeridian.org

I want to start out by talking about the elephant in the room: clinician burnout. There is no question that burnout is a very real problem in medical practice. In fact, about half of physicians now report at least one symptom of burnout, and these symptoms profoundly impact our personal lives and those of our families. We are spending hours after work writing notes, jumping through insurance hoops, and sitting on the phone obtaining prior authorizations. At the same time, we are being asked to be more efficient, see more patients, and deliver on more metrics. We have worked incredibly hard to get where we are, and we deserve to love our work.

About half of physicians now report at least one symptom of burnout…

One thing is very clear: we cannot address burnout by asking our clinicians to develop better self-care. Addressing burnout will require network-level changes, and as the network’s newly appointed Chief Wellness Officer, this will be my focus and priority. I will work with all of you to develop and implement system-level interventions that will help us to create a culture of clinician wellness and engagement. I am starting my new role by traveling across the network on a tour of our practices, seeking feedback on the things that are going well, the challenges that our clinicians are facing, and the issues that we need to address as a network to best support our clinical teams.

Unacknowledged burnout can lead to an increased risk of alcohol abuse and dependence and a significantly increased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation. As physicians, we are in this together, but we are unlikely to ask for help. The effect of burnout extends beyond clinicians and their families to impact patient safety, patient satisfaction, and the quality of patient care we deliver. There is no doubt that clinician burnout has a significant impact on organizational productivity, morale, costs, and overall quality.  Our organization is at a tipping point, and senior executive leadership understands that without our clinicians, we would not be Hackensack Meridian Health

My goal is to work with you to make changes that remind all of us of the meaning and purpose that led us into medicine and help to bring joy and fulfillment back into the workplace. In doing so, we will be improving quality of life for our clinical teams, and ultimately, the patients that we serve. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time at amy.frieman@hackensackmeridian.org.