It is a well-known fact that physician burnout is a worsening problem. But how do we help ourselves? How do we help others? These were the questions posed toACR 2019 attendees during the keynote address by Lotte N. Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. During her address, Dyrbye, whose research focuses on the well-being of medical students, residents, and physicians, urged attendees to address physician burnout head on by reducing the stigma around the problem and demonstrating how radiologists can support their fellow professionals.
Dyrbye noted that recent research shows that each year 2,400 physicians leave their profession due to burnout. “Some physicians are cutting back on hours but others are just leaving the medical profession altogether,” said Dyrbye.
According to Dyrbye, burnout also threatens professionalism in the workplace, which can lead to dishonest behavior, decreased altruistic professional values, decreased empathy, and problems identifying and managing conflicts of interest. Dyrbye pointed to research that shows female and younger physicians are more likely to experience burnout. In addition, female physicians are four times more likely to die by suicide than the general female population. According to Dyrbye, these sobering statistics point to the need for action among organizations and leaders.
“We should be aiming for more than just the absence of burnout,” said Dyrbye. “We need organizations to have strategies for building social support.”
Dyrbye called on leaders and employees to ask questions such as what administrative burdens are getting in the way of their employees’ productivity? What detrimental aspects of your work environment can you change? Asking these questions, noted Dyrbye, is vital for patients to receive compassionate care from committed, competent, and professional physicians.
In her address, Dyrbye also advised attendees to modify aspects of their behaviors that may be placing them at risk for distress. These changes could mean cutting back on work hours and nights on call, making time for more recreational activities, and developing healthy relationships with colleagues, as well as people outside of work.
“Talk with your spouse, family, and friends,” urged Dyrbye. “Protect your time with them and away from work. Remember to say to yourself, ‘Yes, I am a doctor,
and...’ Spend time on your ‘and’ to truly achieve optimal well-being.”