[VIDEO] Burnout and Beyond: Improving Physician Mental Health Summus March 11, 2024

[VIDEO] Burnout and Beyond: Improving Physician Mental Health

Burnout and Beyond, Improving Physician Mental Health

Physicians are the most trusted entity in healthcare, but they are facing an alarming and escalating challenge—burnout. More than half of physicians report signs of burnout each week,. They find themselves caught in a relentless cycle of stress, exhaustion, and emotional fatigue. All from challenging working conditions that impact the overall physician experience and job satisfaction.1 

In this video, three physicians reflect on physician burnout and caring for our physician community. Mary Mulcare, MD, FACEP, Summus Chief Medical Officer talks with a primary care physician, Dr. Jennifer Ludwig, Premise Health, University of Notre Dame Wellness Center, on the frontlines of patient care and occupational medicine physician, Dr. Casey Chosewood, Associate Director of Strategic Priorities, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who shares research findings related to physician and worker mental health. 

Burnout is a real, and measurable, work phenomenon. 

Burnout impacts employees across all industries. Two-thirds of today’s workers indicate that they are struggling with their mental health. Additionally, 9 out of 10 workers shared that they are less productive because of work-related stressors and mental health concerns. 

Mental health challenges disproportionately impact physicians because they’re tasked with superhuman responsibilities. Concerns about their medical license and livelihood add to the stigma. 

—Jennifer Ludwig, MD

There are also notable age and gender differences when it comes to physician mental health. For instance, younger physicians are reporting more mental health concerns. Women report mental health symptoms more frequently than men across healthcare. To address these differences, many medical institutions are incorporating mental health and wellbeing as part of the curriculum and residency.  

Improving physician mental health starts with improving the healthcare system.

The solution to alleviating burnout lies in systemic change. Interventions and efforts must focus on improving the system, including the working conditions and decreasing unrealistic demands and expectations. When physicians can practice at the top of their credentials, they tend to have better mental health. To perform at this level, physicians need: greater flexibility, payment reform, and help alleviating the bureaucratic demands of their time. Doing this will allow them to focus on the rewarding aspects of the job—delivering direct-patient care and education.

Those who oversee or lead physicians and other healthcare workers need people skills and communication training. This training helps shape a positive working environment and healthcare culture where physicians feel valued, heard, and supported, improving overall physician wellbeing and contributing to a more resilient and sustainable healthcare system.

Innovative system solutions take time and must put the physician at the center.

There is no off the shelf, one-size approach to remedying the healthcare system. Rather, healthcare organizations and leaders must make a long-term commitment to listen to physicians and give them greater say in day-to-day operations and decision making processes. When physicians and leaders have open communication, pain points can be minimized to allow physicians to focus on patient care. 

—L. Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH 

At Summus, we value the expertise of physicians and always strive to address what matters most to them. Informed by their realities of healthcare, our platform was designed with and for physicians, creating efficiencies that allow them to spend more time with patients, providing personalized guidance and restoring human connection in healthcare. With physicians at the center of our business model and every decision we make, we are transforming the healthcare system driving better access, better decisions, and better outcomes.

Employers can support physicians and employees struggling with burnout.

Mental health challenges are not limited to the healthcare setting. Mental health concerns are present in many workplace settings. Across industries, workers share that to feel good about their work and have good mental health, they need: flexibility, more say in the decisions that impact them, to be respected, and to believe that their work is making a difference. 

To support physicians and other workers struggling with burnout, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently launched a national campaign, Impact Wellbeing. This campaign is designed to reach decision makers in hospital and health systems to leverage their positions to make a meaningful and sustainable difference at the organizational level. As part of the campaign, there are a number of tools and training for healthcare leaders.  

About Summus

Summus is the leading virtual health company redefining how virtual specialty care is delivered. Physicians in our network value the opportunity to connect deeply with patients and peers, and practice at the top of their license. Join our network today to fulfill your vision to connect and truly help people.

  1. What is physician burnout? | American Medical Association (ama-assn.org)

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