Ask any physician what his or her professional goal is and the answer will customarily be, “To provide the best possible care and outcome for my patients.” However, as any physician will tell you, that is not the end of the story when it comes to career fulfillment.
Several recent articles here have focused on generational recruiting, e.g., generational differences affecting organizational culture, and how and where physician recruiters must respond. From traditionalists to millennials, recruiting these physicians comes down to a few key areas that attempt to provide career fulfillment: technology, work-life balance, and organizational culture. One of the clearest markers of career fulfillment among your docs is physician burnout. How do you reduce burnout? First, consider what might be attributing to it.
Newly hired physicians are probably not accustomed to working as an employee. So defining your organization’s cultural attributes during the recruiting process is a critical first step. The hospital employment system means physicians are also now dealing with productivity quotas and that can put limits on the time a physician spends with a patient. Many physicians say mounting paperwork is keeping them from spending enough time with patients. Prior authorizations, for example, are a major and growing source of this: a 2012 Kaiser study estimated that the nation’s physicians spend more than 868 million hours annually on prior authorization activities.
This trend is eroding physicians’ on-the-job happiness and that can lead to burnout. Physician burnout stems from multiple interrelated causes: excessive workload; loss of autonomy; administrative burdens and consequent inefficiencies; difficulties integrating personal and professional life; and more.
It appears that burnout is more common among physicians than among other workers throughout the country. Take a look at this statistic: In 1973, fewer than 15% of physicians reported any doubts about career choices. Today nearly 40% say that they would not choose to enter the medical profession if given the opportunity to do it all over. With a physician shortage looming, the last thing you need is to lose physicians to burnout.
Many physicians attribute burnout to the culture of medicine. In an article for KevinMD, The Culture of Medicine Needs to Change, Sharon Bahrych PA-C, MPH, writes, “The culture of medicine is not geared towards allowing healthcare providers to de-stress, acquire emotional support, or discuss in an encouraging environment various conflictive work scenarios with their colleagues. The end result of this culture of medicine leads providers to either leave their chosen profession, have professional burnout, deal with work conflict and/or become emotionally broken (i.e. having a lack of integrity, honesty, emotional connectedness with others, etc.).” Bahrych suggests that when physicians keep quiet about their “humaneness” they isolate themselves. “By doing so, we are shutting down emotionally and not allowing healing to take place.”
What’s a physician recruiter to do? Physicians – just like the rest of us – often have trouble finding where to turn for help. Striking a healthy balance isn’t a one-shot deal and avoiding burnout is an ongoing process. Throughout the recruiting process, ensure you engage physician candidates and address every factor influencing their decision to take a new opportunity (or switch jobs), including their family, personal interests, and work-life changes and expectations. Medical and physician support programs are in place in every state throughout the country and have reported successes in helping physicians with burnout and other kinds of stress-related problems. Also, encourage physician candidates to look at their own stresses, determine what (if any) kind of help they need, and assure them they’re not alone.
Keep in mind that many of the negative consequences of physician burnout have direct bottom-line implications for your organization. A decrease in physician burnout should mean measurable increases in quality of care and patient satisfaction, and that means higher physician retention and lower physician turnover.
Looking for other great physician recruitment tips? We interviewed several innovators in recruitment who are using Doximity Talent Finder to recruit physician candidates and they each offered great ideas. You can download their tips now.