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Self-Assessment Tool Helps Physicians Make 'Preemptive Strike on Burnout'

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   August 25, 2020

The Personal Health Inventory self-assessment has been adapted from a self-assessment tool that clinicians use to help patients with chronic illness.

Clinicians and other healthcare workers can complete a two-minute self-assessment to gauge their wellbeing and help prevent burnout.

Research published in September 2018 indicated that nearly half of physicians nationwide were experiencing burnout symptoms, and a study published in October 2018 found burnout increases the odds of physician involvement in patient safety incidents, unprofessionalism, and lower patient satisfaction. Burnout has also been linked to negative financial effects at physician practices and other healthcare organizations.

"Number One, you need to pay attention to yourself. If you are wounded, it is very difficult to help patients or your fellow staff members," says Wayne Jonas, MD, a family physician and executive director of the Samueli Foundation's Samueli Integrative Health Programs. The foundation is based in Corona del Mar, California.

The Personal Health Inventory self-assessment for healthcare workers has been adapted from what clinicians are trained to do with patients who have chronic disease to have the patients focus on their self-care and lifestyle for the management of their chronic illnesses.

"These assessments of patients are done about every three to six months, depending on the intensity of chronic disease. For clinicians, retaking the self-assessment in three months is a good idea," Jonas says.

The Personal Health Inventory self-assessment has four domains, with a set of simple questions in each domain that can be answered quickly.

1. External environment: The questions assess wellbeing-related factors in the workplace and the home.

2. Behavior and lifestyle: The questions include assessments of sleep and food intake.

3. Social and emotional: The questions focus on whether you are connecting with others and your level of social support.

4. Spiritual and mental: The questions help examine whether you are doing things that are meaningful for you and provide insight about whether you are doing things that are important in life such as developing abilities and talents.

Utilizing the self-assessment

"What you do is rate where you are in each of these four domains from one to five—you put a number down. You rate where you would like to build your self-care—where you want to see enhancements. If you have a very low score—three or below—that is a need area and where you should focus, especially if you have readiness to change. Then you reassess after three months and find out how the change is occurring," Jonas says.

The self-assessment tool is not a burnout assessment, he says. "What this self-assessment does is give clinicians a score on where they can take action in their lives. So, this is a self-care action assessment. It helps clinicians narrow down and isolate their core needs."

Once clinicians and other healthcare workers have done the self-assessment, they can look at the domain scores and pick one or two things at most, then set smart goals for specific improvements, Jonas says.

"We are trying to avoid burnout by doing this self-assessment—this is preemptive and about resilience. Resilience is not the entire solution for burnout—there need to be changes in the organizational environment, too. But resilience correlates quite well with risk for burnout. This self-assessment is a way to address burnout and to do a preemptive strike on burnout, especially in these very stressful times."

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


Burnout has reached epidemic proportions among physicians and other healthcare workers.

The new Personal Health Inventory self-assessment developed for healthcare workers focuses on four domains such as the external environment.

The primary goal of conducting the self-assessment is to help healthcare workers concentrate on core needs that bolster wellbeing and resilience.

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