MedWatch Today: Helping doctors prevent “physician burnout”

Med Watch Today

Doctors are healers and caretakers who are often under a lot of stress. They’re susceptible to a major issue called “physician burnout”. So, who takes care of doctors when they’re in need? A coach whose mission is to help doctors and prevent “physician burnout”, UCSF Fresno invited the doctor behind the website “The Happy MD” for a visit.

Doctor Dike Drummond travels the world to help doctors and medical organizations deal with physician burnout.

He made his first visit to Fresno and spoke with Central Valley physicians and staff at UCSF Fresno. Associate Dean and Professor, Dr. Michael Peterson invited him.

“I’m very hopeful that this will expand the conversation,” said Peterson.

Peterson said surveys have shown many UCSF Fresno doctors could be candidates for “physician burnout”.

“Where they have emotional exhaustion, they don’t feel the same joy in their work anymore. It can lead some of them to leave the profession early, to have issues dealing with patients, outcomes, infection rates, surgical complications,” Peterson stated.

Drummond is a life coach with real life experience as a family medicine doctor. He launched his website “The Happy MD” in 2011.

“It’s meant to be a little bit of an oxy moron, it’s a place where you go to get the tools so you can be a happy MD if you’re a doctor,” Drummond said.

“Physician burnout” affects up to 50-percent of doctors in some specialties in the United States according to Drummond.

He said, “It’s really common for doctors to complain about certain things about the practice of medicine that have changed in recent years, and the biggest stressor would be the electronic medical record.”

He said many doctors have gone from private practice, to being an employee and a part of a medical group. Therefore, there’s a loss of independence. Add the workload of digital cases, and you can have one very unhappy doctor.

Drummond commented, “So what ends up happening is, doctors spend a couple of hours a night, often before they go to bed and finishing their charts from home.”

Peterson said he’s noticed residents are not taught how to sufficiently deal with their personal stress.

“How can we start to introduce concepts about resiliency for them in their careers, and hopefully prevent some of the things that we’re seeing in practicing physicians now?” said Peterson.

He’s concerned particularly about how “physician burnout” affects the Central Valley. About 30-percent of doctors in the Valley are over the age of 60 and are rapidly retiring. Peterson said the Valley continues to lag far behind the rest of the state in terms of number of physicians per population.

Peterson said, “We can’t afford to lose physicians in this region of the state.”

So, Drummond has some tips. He said, “You need to develop your own resilience strategy, get enough sleep, get some exercise, maybe you meditate, maybe you journal, maybe you do yoga, right? And then, I work with organizations to make a less toxic mind.”

Drummond said patients can help deter “physician burnout”. He suggests the next time you see your doctor, “I think it’s totally legitimate for you to look at your doctor and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going? How are you doing?'”

Drummond has trained more than 30,000 doctors on four continents and has worked with 167 different organizations, to help prevent physician burnout. If you’d like to learn more on “The Happy MD”, click here.

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