It’s no secret that burnout among healthcare providers has reached an all-time high. Forty-two percent of physicians reported experiencing burnout in 2018, according to Medscape’s annual survey.
Electronic health record data entry, learning about new payment models, extensive quality and productivity metrics documentation, and other administrative requirements are taking many providers away from quality face-to-face time with patients.
And those additional pressures have serious negative repercussions, with many physicians reporting significant career dissatisfaction, frustration, burnout, and stress.
As cliché as it sounds, most providers went into medicine because of the joy and satisfaction in healing people — not to juggle an ever-increasing number of administrative tasks that don’t require medical training.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Triple Aim of healthcare reform calls for improved population health, better patient experience, and decreased per capita costs. But without satisfied, healthy providers, the Triple Aim is difficult to achieve. To that end, researchers recently proposed a fourth aim: improving the work life of healthcare providers, including physicians and other clinicians.
Preventing burnout and finding joy are two different things (although ideally, we can achieve both). In this post, I’d like to talk about rediscovering the joy of practicing medicine.
I had an amazing shift in the ED the other day. When I arrived for work, everyone was glad to see me. It’s a pleasure to work with people who feel as strongly about the practice of medicine as I do and with whom I have a sense of camaraderie.
I had a pharmacist helping me with important medication reconciliation issues and a case manager working on patient disposition, two tasks that often fall on my shoulders. I also had a scribe that day, which allowed me more freedom to sit face to face and connect personally with patients. I feel joyful when I don’t feel rushed — when I can actually be in the moment with each patient.
What also made it an enjoyable shift was that I had exercised the day before and had gotten a good night’s sleep. Maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle can make all the different in your outlook on work and life in general.
Not every shift is a perfect as that one was. Some days I struggle to reconnect with that joy in practicing medicine. But when I think about the things that bring me joy on the job and work to recreate them, it reignites my sense of fulfillment.
Collectively, what can providers and healthcare organizations do to reinvigorate the sense of joy in practicing medicine? Here are some suggestions:
The careers to which we’ve dedicated ourselves should be a source of satisfaction and joy. To that end, Vituity has launched a Joy in Medicine initiative that encompasses wellness, leadership development, coaching for engagement and empathy, and teambuilding.
As the Quadruple Aim suggests, focusing on provider well-being is good medicine for everyone.
Last updated May 31, 2019.