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PHM15: Physical Burnout for Hospitalists


Presenters: Allison Ballantine and Lisa Zaoutis

Physician burnout can be thought of as similar to water level in a reservoir during a drought – there is an imbalance between usage and replenishment. This leads to physician exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficiency. Burnout is a function of both the individual (younger, single, and less resilient are at higher risk) and the environment (high job demands with inadequate resources).

Burnout can affect:

  • Job performance. With increased error rates, decreased cognitive function, decreased patient safety, and increased risk medmal litigation.
  • Physician retention. A burned out physician is more likely to leave with subsequent practice disruption and cost.
  • Physician health. Increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicidality.

Interventions can help prevent and mitigate burnout from both a personal and institutional perspective. Individuals can mitigate potential burnout through different strategies. These include having a strong support network and practicing mindfulness to decrease rumination about work related issues. Engaging in relaxing activities that provide reward with low effort as well as physical actions, such as ensuring private time with no calls, will lessen stresses.

Institutional efforts to decrease burnout need to focus on factors that address perceived fairness in the workplace, adequate financial compensation, social recognition, and an appropriate balance between responsibility and authority.

More resources can be found at the speakers’ website and through Christina Maslach, a leading researcher in the field.

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