How to combat burnout in the current health care environment

OMED speakers discussed the importance of addressing clinician burnout at the individual and organizational levels.


Awareness of burnout in health care has been growing since the 1970s, and it is currently a very prevalent topic of discussion in the health care space, note OMED23 speakers Michael Kulisz, DO, and Christopher L. Gandy, LACP.

In their presentation on combatting burnout in health care today, Dr. Kulisz and Gandy discussed the ubiquity of burnout in medicine, described its effect on organizations and individuals, talked about organizational and individual factors contributing to burnout, and shared approaches to fighting burnout. Their talk, and all other OMED23 content, is available on the OMED platform through Dec. 31, 2023. Virtual conference registration is open through mid-December.

“Physicians exhibit greater resilience than the general working population,” said Gandy, noting that resilient individuals are less susceptible to burnout. “Although maintaining and strengthening resilience is important, physicians are not generally resilience-deficient and burnout rates are substantial even among the most resilient physicians.”

Throughout the talk, the speakers included statistics to back up their claims, including how nearly 1 in 5 health care workers have quit their jobs during the pandemic, and over 50% of health care workers have experienced burnout at some point in their careers.

It took close to 50 years after burnout was first defined for the World Health Organization (WHO) to include it in its classification of diseases. This was important because it takes away the responsibility from being fully on the physician, and now must also be on the organization.

“Physician wellness is achieved when you address burnout organizationally, with resilience on the individual level,” said Dr. Kulisz.

The goal of the presentation was to shed light on physicians’ wellbeing, while discussing ways to cope with the stresses of personal and professional life. Gandy and Dr. Kulisz also covered ways to look out for burnout within ourselves and others, using the APGAR score:

Appearance – decline of self-care, fatigue or change in weight
Performance – decline in performance or workaholism
Growth tension – apathy, irritability or feeling overwhelmed
Affect control – moodiness and difficulty managing emotions
Relationships – relationship struggles or social isolation

Awareness of burnout is an important first step to addressing it, said Dr. Kulisz.

“We cannot change things we are unaware of,” he noted.

Another goal of the presentation was to review approaches to combatting burnout, so physicians and companies felt they had a solid starting point. The organizational factors that contribute to burnout include workload, perceived lack of control, lack of reward and recognition, poor relationships, lack of fairness and values mismatch.

To address these, companies can work toward creating a more positive work environment, providing support and limiting administrative burdens. Dr. Kulisz and Gandy also discussed the benefits of coaching programs. According to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, a program aimed at decreasing burnout among female residents significantly reduced emotional exhaustion and imposter syndrome while increasing self-compassion over a six-month period.

Access Dr. Kulisz and Dr. Gandy’s talk and all other OMED content on-demand on the OMED platform through Dec. 31, 2023.

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