You won’t want to miss Tuesday’s keynote speaker at HM19. Tait Shanafelt, MD, a hematologist, oncologist, and translational researcher of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, will discuss “clinician well-being” – a research interest of his for almost 20 years.
“A small study that I led as a resident was one of the first to look at the relationship between clinicians’ own well-being and how it impacted the care they provide patients,” he said in an interview. “That study was a real lightning rod; it got coverage everywhere – the cover of USA Today, Paul Harvey’s show. It was done by this junior person with great mentorship, and here it was galvanizing a national conversation, and I remember wondering, ‘Why is it the case? We’ve known about this in an anecdotal way for a long time.’ But we had studied it in a methodologically rigorous way, using good scientific practices, and that had allowed this to change the conversation.”
At HM19, Dr. Shanafelt will share his thoughts about where we are today with our understanding of the clinician’s experience: What are the main drivers of both distress and professional fulfillment for clinicians? “I’ll really focus on the organizational and system-level approaches that we need to be improving to make meaningful progress in reducing burnout and distress and cultivating professional fulfillment,” he said.
For too long, Dr. Shanafelt added, we’ve approached this as a problem of personal resilience, which has implied to clinicians that they just need to take better care of themselves – sleep more, exercise, do yoga. “There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t address the root cause of this problem, and they will not make a meaningful dent in burnout,” he said.
Instead, we should look at the characteristics of the practice environment – whether the environment makes it easy to do the right things and provide the care patients need or whether it erects barriers to those things, barriers clinicians then have to overcome. “Can we design work flows, processes, and so forth that reduce low-value work and allow clinicians to spend more of their professional effort on the piece that only they can do: making key medical decisions, counseling patients, supporting patients?”
We know now that the well-being and professional fulfillment of clinicians is a fundamental driver of quality of care and has profound financial implications for our organizations, Dr. Shanafelt affirmed.
“This isn’t just that we want happy people here; this is fundamental if we want to achieve our mission as health care organizations,” he said. “We can’t have quality of care if we have a burned-out clinician work force. We also know now, with data from Stanford [(Calif.) University] and the Cleveland Clinic, that there is a strong relationship between burnout, turnover, and productivity and that there is a clear financial cost to the health care organization such that it merits investment of resources to bend that curve. As we start to make those investments, how do we deploy that resource to do the most good within our organizations and really transform our organizational environment and culture?”
The High Cost of Clinician Burnout: Organizational Approaches to Clinician Well-Being
Tait Shanafelt, MD
Tuesday, 9:10 – 10:00 a.m.