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CMA announces new statewide collaborative effort to promote physician wellness

May 08, 2019
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Wellness 


The California Medical Association (CMA) announced a new statewide collaborative effort with leading experts on physician wellness from the Stanford Medicine WellMD Center: Tait Shanafelt, M.D., center director, chief wellness officer and professor of hematology, and Mickey Trockel, M.D., project co-leader and clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

This new program will promote physician wellness across California and will be the most comprehensive state level effort in the country. Dr. Shanafelt and Dr. Trockel are nationally recognized leaders on physician wellness who bring academic expertise, as well as hands-on experience building successful organizational initiatives to improve physician fulfillment and wellbeing.

The program will utilize a population health framework to address systemic contributors to physician burnout, along with providing tailored support for physicians at increased risk or experiencing specific challenges. In addition to creating tools to support changes that the health care system can make to increase physician wellbeing, the program will assist those already expressing signs of physician burnout.

The program will also include offerings that range from local physician commensality groups (to help physicians reconnect with their peers and to meaning in their work) to tools that help physicians calibrate their wellbeing, while also linking those physicians who have markers of burnout to additional resources. Training will be made available to empower physician leaders to build practice environments that support professional fulfillment. The program will also include an annual comprehensive, longitudinal assessment of the experiences of California physicians to identify new opportunities and measure progress.

CMA is extremely proud to work with Dr. Shanafelt and his team to better combat physician burnout, which occurs from medical school through active practice,” said CMA President David H. Aizuss, M.D. “This program’s scope, innovative approach and resources are unmatched in the nation, and it will substantially improve physician wellness while supporting patient access to quality care.”

“This collaboration will implement a comprehensive approach to promote the wellness of California’s physicians using a population health framework” said Shanafelt. “Given the strong links between physician distress and the care they provide patients, we believe improving physician wellness benefits not only physicians, but the patients and communities they serve.”

“This project aims to promote wellness for all physicians, deliver specific interventions to those most at risk for burnout, and provide timely interventions to those already in distress,” said Trockel. “Along with broad focus on promoting wellbeing, this tiered approach also sets the ambitious goal of preventing physician suicide in California.”

Burnout, an occupational syndrome marked by exhaustion, cynicism and loss of purpose in work, has been increasing among physicians. Over half of U.S. physicians report symptoms of burnout. The National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare estimated that physician burnout is costing the nation’s hospitals and health systems $1.7 billion per year. When burnout-related turnover among all U.S. physicians is considered, the costs could be as high as $17 billion.

“The well-being of the nation’s physicians is a critical factor in maintaining access to care and the quality of our health care system,” said wellness program CEO Kathleen Creason. “The program will help physicians conquer these issues, so they can do what they do best – care for patients.”

National studies led by Dr. Shanafelt indicate that burnout is more common among physicians than U.S. workers in other fields. Physician burnout has also been associated with risk for suicide among physicians. Burnout can erode the quality of patient care and decrease patient satisfaction. It can also limit patient access to care, as physicians experiencing burnout often cope by reducing the number of patients they see, reducing their clinical time or leaving the profession entirely.

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