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Curb Clinician Burnout with This 4-Point Strategy

News  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   May 30, 2018

To decrease burnout and increase resilience, you must deconstruct burnout into its component parts, understand the interplay between stressors and rewards, measure clinician experience, and design interventions.

Clinician burnout is a complex problem that can be addressed with thorough examination of working conditions and carefully targeted interventions, according to a Press Ganey report released this week.

"The approach rests on the premise that the stressors and rewards that contribute to burnout risk derive from different sources, and the way individuals and teams respond to these stressors and rewards varies based on job responsibilities, personal values and professional experiences," the report says.

The report, "Burnout and Resilience: A Framework for Data Analysis and a Positive Path Forward," calls for a four-point approach to reduce burnout and increase resilience among medical staff:

  • Deconstructing burnout into actionable components
  • Understanding the interrelationships between burnout components
  • Measuring the clinician experience as it relates to components of burnout
  • Designing interventions that boost resilience and reduce burnout

1. Deconstructing burnout

The Press Ganey report deconstructs burnout by categorizing stressors and rewards as inherent to a caregiver's role or the result of external forces. "Deconstructing burnout into relevant component parts allows leaders and organizations to identify and manage each appropriately," the report says.

Inherent components of burnout and resilience:

  • The emotional drain linked to providing care to the ill
  • Witnessing suffering
  • The daily pressure of making clinical judgments that affect patients' lives
  • Rewards include the joy of helping people, doing meaningful work, and respect from patients, staff, and the community

External components of burnout and resilience:

  • Documentation burden
  • Working with electronic health record
  • Low staffing levels
  • Pressure for increased productivity
  • Diminished autonomy
  • External rewards include compensation, prestige, and recognition from patients

2. Interrelated stressors and rewards

The interplay between stressors and rewards is the key to understanding physician burnout, the report says. "These stressors and rewards define the clinician experience, and the balance between them influences clinicians' vulnerability to burnout."

It is crucial to not only identify components of burnout but also understand how those components interact, according to the report. "The balance is not a simple, linear equation. … The relationship is modulated by the dynamics of the different sources of stress and reward and their interconnectedness."


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Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.

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