Chief Wellness Officers Battle Physician Burnout

Research from the National Academy of Medicine shows that burnout is mainly caused by policies of an organization that are outside of an individual clinician’s control.

Physician burnout involves three main components: emotional exhaustion, a lack of sense of personal accomplishment and depersonalization. Burnout is often accompanied by a lack of purpose, a decreased drive to care for patients, symptoms of fatigue, difficulty concentrating and depression.

A Physicians Foundation survey released in September found 58% of Physicians experience burnout.

Chief wellness officers work with all departments in the system to identify opportunities for changes in practice to reduce burnout and stress.

Dr. Liselotte Dyrbye, a researcher of burnout and physician well-being at Mayo Clinic said an essential first step for CWOs is to assess the burnout and stress levels within their organizations because that will guide where solutions should be directed.

Physicians can assess how their well-being compares with colleagues nationally using the Mayo Clinic’s Well-Being Index, a tool where physicians can receive feedback based on their answers to nine questions about their individual well-being. The index also includes links to resources, tools and exercises to help drive change in an individual’s well-being.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the CWO creates a culture of wellness and mutual support throughout the organization.

This leader should acknowledge and promote clinician wellbeing. As well as integrate organizational strategic plans, and hold fellow leadership members accountable for achieving

related strategic goals.

CWOs must have a strong focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization to ensure that all individuals feel safe in seeking support and care.

Management should implement effective, evidence-based supportive approaches, such as peer support, post-shift huddles, psychological first aid, and buddy systems.

Leaders should encourage resilience workshops (e.g., mindfulness, yoga, physical fitness, healthy nutrition), groups, and meet-ups at work as well as social engagements to support families dealing with the shared life experience of supporting health care workers that routinely have to put the needs of strangers ahead of their own (including family).

To effect long-lasting and meaningful reductions in burnout, it is necessary and crucial for organizational leadership to demonstrate a commitment to creating a culture of wellness, model change, and address the problem of burnout at the systemic and organizational level.

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