6 Practical Ways Executives Can Show Appreciation for Physicians

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EPR-thumb4Female physicians are more than two times likely to commit suicide than women in any other walk of life.

Nearly 50 percent of practicing physicians exhibit at least one of the following four symptoms of burnout: time pressure, degree of control regarding work, work pace and level of chaos, and values alignment between the physician and administration.

If given the choice of restarting their career, little more than half of physicians would go into medicine again, according to a 2012 online poll. This is down from a similar 2011 poll that found 69 percent would choose medicine again.

These statistics are all paraphrased or quoted from an article by Diane Shannon at WBUR’s CommonHealth blog. Dr. Shannon was once a practicing physician who quit after the stress of the medical profession threatened her quality of life and overall health.

The question is: What can you do to ensure that your physicians don’t end up in Dr. Shannon’s shoes? How can you make sure they are leading a well-balanced and healthy professional and personal life? What can you do to make sure they won’t feel that they have to quit in order to preserve their health?

Dr. Shannon shares some practical ideas from a recent Massachusetts Medical Society conference on physician well-being, all of which were posited by health-care executives. They’re more mundane and simpler than you may imagine.

1.)   Participate in frontline care.

Show an interest in your physicians’ daily routine. Go on patient rounds with them. See what they experience firsthand.

2.)   Hold physician retreats.

Provide a relaxed atmosphere, such as a retreat, in which physicians feel free to complain and air their grievances. But don’t let the complaints stay at the retreat. Once you’re back in the hospital, follow up on these grievances either with tangible initiatives or consultation sessions in which physicians can provide recommendations for change.

3.)   Send thank-you notes.

Every time you receive a compliment about a particular physician from a patient, either in person or through a survey or letter, recognize the physician’s efforts with a simple note.

4.)   Give physicians some influence on their daily schedule at outpatient clinics.

Juggling the demands placed on their schedule is stressful for physicians, especially when they have X-number of patients to see in the inpatient setting, then have to rush to fulfill their duties at the clinic. Help them juggle these demands by giving them some control over their schedule.

5.)   Consider revamping the reimbursement system.

Yes, this is complicated, but the goal here is to reward those physicians who are providing not just high-quality care, but also compassionate care. Furthermore, when the reimbursement system emphasizes value, it deemphasizes volume, which is, of course, a goal of health-care reform.

6.)   Listen, listen, listen.

The most effective physician-executive relationships mainly involve listening to the physicians. Know where your physicians are coming from, what they’re thinking, and what their solutions are.

As Shannon writes, “From personal experience, I know the importance of creating a system in which physicians can fulfill their potential and connect with patients. I believe that until we see physicians as humans, prioritize their well-being, and create systems in which they can provide safe and compassionate care, we cannot expect them to heal others.”

What have you done at your organization that demonstrates the value leadership places on your physicians? How have the physicians responded to these executive efforts?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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