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Tips for Addressing Physician Burnout in the Face of COVID-19

COVID-19 first popped up in the United States in March of 2020, and providers are facing an increase in physician burnout as a result. 

The pandemic has prompted many healthcare professionals to step-up and work diligently during a time where over 2 million US individuals have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, physician burnout was already a top concern across many healthcare platforms as physicians grew tired, felt overworked, and faced feelings of de-personalization and lack of motivation. Caused primarily by juggling too much between their personal and work environments, the American Medical Association reported an overall physician burnout rate of 42% in the United States prior to the pandemic. This number has only grown in the last few months as physicians and their teams work tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19.

What Factors Impact Physician Burnout?

Number of Patients

While some practices have closed their doors to non-emergent patients during the coronavirus, there still exists a heaping number of providers treating the millions of individuals with the coronavirus. Many organizations have temporarily transitioned their care efforts entirely on COVID-19, resulting in a change in direction and pace across their organization. Lack of control of the pace at which you work can quickly lead to physician burnout and many providers are facing this.

Available Resources

With COVID-19 having an alarmingly high transmission rate, the number of cases in the United States grew astronomically in only a few months. This threw many organizations into a shock for resources within their buildings like gloves, masks, and ventilators for patients with severe symptoms. This only added to the stress, and transition of the pace providers are accustomed to moving at, leading to higher rates of physician burnout.

Facing the Unknown

Individuals across the United States are joined together as we collectively face the unknown. So much is still unknown about the virus it is hard to say when we will see relief. With small solutions still in the testing phase and permanent solutions still unknown, the uncertainty of when the pandemic will end has many facing increased anxiety. For those on the front-line of medicine and treatment for the virus, the risk for physician burnout is that much more intense. With protocol for the virus constantly changing, providers are continually having to shift their goals and perspectives, which leads to higher levels of physician burnout.

Tips to Overcome Burnout During COVID-19

Create Time for Yourself

While things are invariably changing and providers are having to shift their attention every other moment, creating time for yourself wherever possible is a great way to combat physician burnout during and after COVID-19. Providers should take time in their personal life to focus on the things that bring them joy, relief, or peace. While some of your normal hobbies and interests might be impacted by social distancing guidelines, there are still ways you can care for yourself. For example, take the time to prepare healthy meals rather than eat out, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated. Doing these things while also working your mind can help prevent physician burnout.

Maintain Structure Whenever Possible

Although it may be even more difficult now than prior to the pandemic to hold the structure in your daily routine, you should try to however you can. Structuring your time so that you have very defined “work hours” and “personal hours” is essential for preventing or alleviating physician burnout. A great way to do this is to refrain from checking your email, answering work calls, or working too many hours to protect your personal time. While emergencies may come up, structuring your time the best you can will protect you from burnout.

Teamwork and Practice Management Software

Physician burnout not only affects individuals, it can impact other staff and employees. Doctors can get burnt out for a number of reasons, including poor administrative support or the burden of collecting payments from insurance payers. By empowering administrative teams to save time on tasks like checking eligibility, appointment scheduling and claims billing, practice management systems create space for more effective teamwork, and thus decreasing the stress that providers face.

To learn more tools that can help streamline your workflow and prevent physician burnout at your practice, click here.

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