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    Avoiding burnout: tips for practicing medicine with joy


    A female doctor converses happily with her female patient

    • Providing great care to patients is a source of joy for both doctors and nurses. But the list of things stealing that joy away from you seems to be getting longer by the day. You can get it back. How? Three experts reveal their secrets to making the practice of medicine enjoyable again.


      The current iteration of the healthcare delivery system is taking control over patient care away from doctors and nurses and, along with it, the joy of practicing medicine. That’s left many doctors, nurses and other licensed caregivers feeling frustrated, burned out, depressed and looking for another career.


      We asked three experts to identify stress factors and suggest ways to regain control of your practice and bring back the joy of caring for your patients. Read on for insights from Sarah Isakson, APRN, CNP, CWPCN, scientific affairs manager for 3M’s Medical division; V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, AI evangelist for 3M Health Information Systems (HIS) division; and L. Gordon Moore, M.D., senior medical director for population and payment solutions at 3M HIS.

    • Healthcare burnout: Scope of the problem

      Far from being anecdotal or cranky water-cooler conversation, clinician burnout is real and not limited to doctors. Our experts cited a number of studies, reports and surveys that document the scope of the problem facing healthcare. For example:

      • 44 percent of physicians surveyed by researchers from Stanford University, the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association say they’ve experienced at least one symptom of burnout. Those symptoms include feeling emotionally exhausted and professionally depersonalized.
      • 42 percent of nurses who describe themselves as “unengaged” say they are experiencing symptoms of burnout, according to a survey of nurses at a representative sample of 37 hospitals by PRC, the healthcare market research firm.

      “There are a lot of great nurses out there who are leaving the field because they’re not happy,” Isakson says. “It is easy to lose that feeling of joy that comes from caring for others.”

      “We’re at a pretty far swing of the pendulum right now in terms of burnout,” Moore adds. “We need to swing back the other way as fast as we can and move away from the burning pits that are the state of healthcare today and threaten our profession.”

    • Stress in healthcare workers

      The fuel supply that keeps what Moore describes as the “burning pits” burning appears to be unlimited in today’s healthcare work environment. Moore, Isakson and Jagannathan rattle off a long list of the things pushing you to your limit. They fall into four general categories:


      1. Clinical administrative tasks. One recent study by researchers from the AMA found that physicians spend almost half their office day entering patient data into EHR systems and on other administrative tasks.

      2. Non-clinical administrative tasks. Things like following utilization review guidelines, seeking prior authorization approval from payers, complying with billing rules and managing your practice’s business and revenue cycle.

      3. Intensity of patient care. The acuity level of patients in hospitals, post-acute settings and home-care settings is getting higher. You’re caring for the same or more patients who require higher intensity care. Those clinical demands, as well as the fear of making mistakes, add to your stress level at work.

      4. Technology. New and sophisticated medical technologies are pervasive in all healthcare settings today. You not only have to master them but monitor them continuously as all the honks, beeps and alarms take you away from direct contact with your patients.


      “Everything we’re talking about disconnects the doctor or the nurse from the patient,” Jagannathan says. “That means they’re disconnected from the one thing that gives them the most joy in their work.”

    • Improving morale: Getting the time – and the joy – back

      The question becomes what can you do to get time and joy back into what you do?


      Using the above four buckets as a guide, Isakson, Jagannathan and Moore offer a number of tactics and strategies to get it back.


      1. For clinical administrative tasks, consider using voice recognition or scribing technology to input patient information into EHRs. Other technology automates the collection and reporting of clinical quality measures to payers.

      2. For non-clinical administrative tasks, technologies powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning or robotic process automation perform previously manual tasks like PA, coding, billing, claims management and other steps in the revenue cycle process.

      3. To successfully care for more patients and/or sicker patients, look for ways to decompress your patient load. Those could be adding experienced providers to your practice, introducing interprofessional collaborative care models to share patient panels with your peers or using telemedicine capabilities to reduce the need for in-office visits.

      4. To help manage new medical technologies, activate remote monitoring that allows you to manage all those honks, beeps and alarms from a central location rather than running from room to room and bed to bed. Technologies like telemedicine and secure text messaging systems let you communicate with patients in workflow and when it’s most convenient for both parties.


      And little things can add up to a big impact on happiness in the workplace, according to our trio of experts. Things like creating recognition programs, wearing colorful scrubs and lab coats or holding special activities and events for patients. Work should be fun, not dreary.  

    • Achieving work-life balance

      A recent survey of nearly 20,000 registered nurses asked what thing most influences their intent to stay at their current place of work. The No. 1 answer – cited by 39 percent of the respondents – was work flexibility and work-life balance.


      Doctors expressed a similar sentiment in the survey by Stanford, Mayo and the AMA. Nearly 41 percent of the physician respondents “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with the statement: “Work schedule leaves me enough time for my personal and/or family life.”

      Jagannathan says doctors call it pajama time.


      “Are you spending pajama time entering data in EHRs on your laptop?” he asks. “Or, are you spending pajama time watching television with your spouse or playing with your kids?”


      The former will not bring joy back to the practice of medicine or caring for patients. The latter most certainly will.


      Ultimately, what these tactics and strategies can help achieve is better balance at work between direct care with your patients and what Moore calls “non-value-added steps,” as well as better balance between work and home.

    Find out how 3M can help your team focus on what you care about most – helping improve care for your patients.

    • 3M Medical

      3M Medical focuses on transforming patient outcomes to enhance the patient experience and lower total cost of care through evidence-based solutions, education and partnerships.

    • 3M Health Information Systems

      3M Health Information Systems (HIS) works with healthcare organizations to deliver software solutions and services to help you succeed in an ever-changing world.



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