COVID-19 pandemic has worsened burnout among doctors

A number of studies have documented an increase in burnout among health professionals related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in a recent study of focus groups of oncologists published in the JCO Oncology Practice, Fay J. Hlubocky, PhD, MA, of the University of Chicago Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, and colleagues found that oncologists “reported that the undesirable, harmful Staff “The effects of COVID-19 exacerbated the underlying prepandemic burnout in oncologists and increased new stress levels.

In an accompanying editorial, Ronald M. Epstein, MD, and Michael R. Privitera, MD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, wrote: “The nature of work has changed. Many colleagues approaching retirement age are now exhausted and moving towards short-time work faster than they expected before the pandemic. Who can blame them? “

Drs. Epstein and Privitera suggested measures to alleviate the underlying causes of burnout. “Flexibility of working hours and tasks as well as coaching and communication skills programs can improve teamwork, determination, collective resilience and the alignment of clinicians to common goals,” write Drs. Epstein and Privitera.

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In addition, health systems should avoid clinicians spending time on meaningless tasks “that manifest as a flurry of compulsory training modules, administrative work, bloating of notes, documentation whose sole purpose is to increase billing revenue, and dysfunctional computer systems”.

Doctors often refuse to use mental health services because of the potential professional consequences like losing their licenses, said Dr. Epstein in an interview. “Some states even ask, ‘Have you ever been diagnosed with or treated for any mental illness?'” Said Dr. Epstein, professor of family medicine, psychiatry, oncology, and medicine.

He also noted, “If doctors didn’t have to report mental health problems, they would be more likely to seek treatment. A smarter approach that some states are taking is to ask doctors, ‘Do you currently have any physical or mental impairments that may affect your ability to practice medicine?’ “

Dr. Epstein said there is a need for behavioral health and peer support programs that respond quickly and effectively to clinicians in difficulty indicated by poor outcomes, medical errors, or moral distress or conflict. Combating burnout requires systemic changes in work culture and greater involvement of managers in medical institutions.

In an Annals of Internal Medicine article on the psychological impact of the pandemic on doctors, Warren D. Taylor, MD, MHSc, and Jennifer Urbano Blackford, PhD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, offered advice on reducing the risk of burnout . Doctors should practice self-care “by taking time to eat, sleep, and rejuvenate. The conscious creation of even short moments with less stress through mindfulness meditation can reduce physiological stress markers as well as depressive and anxiety symptoms. ”According to Dr. Taylor and Blackford rely on their social support, including family, friends, teammates and colleagues.

Doctors who are struggling should seek help early, they advised. “Psychiatrists and psychologists have a number of effective treatments available, including brief, focused psychotherapy; Group therapy; and prescription drugs if needed, ”they wrote.

Reidar Tyssen, MD, PhD, psychiatrist and professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Oslo in Norway, said doctors should focus on the basics of their wellbeing. You need to wonder if the time spent in these areas is relevant to them. He recommends drawing a pie chart, with the size of each piece reflecting the importance of different aspects of their work and personal life. “Don’t skip mental relaxation or recreational activities that really get you started again,” said Dr. Tyssen. “Read a novel, listen to music, just do nothing, everything is important.”

Rahman Mohammed, MD, a Dallas-based emergency physician and CEO and founder of VivoDoc, a company designed to help doctors manage the medical business better, said doctor burnout is the result of too much work, disappointed expectations, and inadequacy can be remuneration. Doctors can take steps to prevent burnout by achieving a healthy work-life balance. Better time management is one such step. For example, doctors should delegate non-clinical tasks to support staff and medical assistants should take care of patient follow-up and prioritize clinical tasks according to urgency.

This article originally appeared on the Kidney and Urology News

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