Why Physicians are So Cynical About “Burnout Prevention Programs” (and why they SHOULD be)
I'm in a lot of physician groups and a part of a lot of communities. What's interesting is that while there are a ton of burned out physicians out there (especially physician moms), when there is any talk of organizational physician wellness initiatives (i.e. physician life coaching, physician wellness retreats, or physician burnout programs), the docs get so angry. The question is why is this happening? Why do the doctors have so little faith in organizations who are "trying" to implement physician burnout solutions?
As I have researched what's currently out there, have spoken at physician wellness conferences, and have even done
So to the physician, it comes off as the organization making its half ass attempt to make physicians think they care while "looking good" to the outside. "Hey look guys! We're doing something about burnout in our hospital! See? We care"And because I can't read their mind, that could very well be the case. However, I think in some instances the leadership who really do care, are simply clueless, and instead of asking the physicians what they need, they piecemeal random "research-based stress solutions" that are likely pulled from non-medical industry related corporate programs. This is like throwing paint against a wall and expecting to see a pattern.
How do I know? I've looked under the hood of many of these programs, and if you look closely at these programs, you will see that they have no real structure or strategy for helping doctors ACTUALLY recover from or prevent burnout. What' they are calling "burnout prevention" are studies and articles on "mindfulness" and "breathing". They bring in speakers to talk about "what doctors can do" when they offer no ongoing support. And I know! I've been in the room with those speakers.
The thing that these CEO's, CMO's, and COO's fail to realize is that without an ongoing strategy or support for these doctors … something that will help doctors get to the root cause of their burnout, and give them specific structures and strategies to help improve the problem both at the practice and personal level, their programs aren't worth more than the research it's based on!
Having personally experienced burnout in a way that took me to the edge of life, I can tell you that hearing a lecture would have been like hearing Charlie Brown's teacher talking to me. During the darkest of days, I can say with certainty that
reading an article on mindfulness, looking at research, watching a video, or being told to breathe would not have helped one. damn. bit. In fact, it would have likely sent me over the edge; because when a physician is in that dark of a place, they tend to feel like THEY are the problem already.
What I needed in those darkest hours before I nearly took my life was someone to validate my feelings, followed by access to a safe (meaning anonymous), live (meaning real time), and human (meaning human connection) ongoing interaction to help me to remove the anchor that was trying (and nearly succeeding) to pull me under.
The bottom line: These hospitals are focusing on the WRONG THING! How do I know? Because, I have trained, worked with, and coached dozens of doctors the programs that are currently being offered do not even scratch the surface of helping to alleviate what truly causes burnout in doctors. That's because physician burnout (and especially physician mom burnout) is so multifactorial.
So, YES physicians are rather justified in being suspicious and even a little cynical about organizational burnout programs. However, it can't be stepped over that the cynicism we have as physicians
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