As the delivery of health care undergoes fundamental shifts and the rate of burnout among physicians continues to rise, physician wellness and professional fulfillment have become hot topics throughout the health care community – and for good reason.
In a recent Medscape survey, nearly two-thirds of U.S. doctors said they felt burned out, depressed or both. More troubling still, one-third of respondents said such feelings affected their relationships with patients.
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.
To help physicians succeed in their life's work of caring for patients, the California Medical Association (CMA) has made physician wellness and the prevention of burnout a core priority. By advancing initiatives that enhance efficiency, professional satisfaction and the delivery of care, CMA is striving to help physicians navigate and succeed in a continually evolving health care environment.
To that end, CMA is working with nationally recognized leaders on physician wellness who bring unparalleled academic expertise and hands-on experience to build an organizational initiative to improve physician fulfillment and well-being.
The new initiative is a statewide collaborative effort with physician wellness experts from the Stanford Medicine WellMD Center: Tait Shanafelt, M.D., associate dean, chief wellness officer and professor of hematology; and Mickey Trockel, M.D., project co-leader and clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
Under the leadership of CEO Kathleen Creason, CMA’s Physician Wellness Services will be the most comprehensive effort in the country to increase physician wellness as a vehicle to improve the quality of care they provide patients.
“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.”
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 well-being, the program will assist those already expressing signs of burnout.
“This collaboration will implement a comprehensive approach to promote the wellness of California’s physicians,” said Dr. 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.”
The program will also include offerings that range from local physician commensality groups (to help physicians reconnect with their peers and to find meaning in their work) to tools that help physicians calibrate their well-being, 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.
“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 Dr. Trockel. “Along with broad focus on promoting well-being, this tiered approach also sets the ambitious goal of preventing physician suicide in California.”
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.
“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 Creason. “The program will help physicians conquer these issues, so they can do what they do best – care for patients.”
For more information on CMA’s Physician Wellness Services Program, contact Kathleen Creason via email or (916) 551-2031.