Recently, I had an opportunity to drop in on two of the foremost researchers in physician burnout, Sara Poplau and Mark Linzer of Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. We chatted about various aspects of the current burnout crisis and exciting new initiatives on the horizon. Then we spent some time contemplating a frustrating truth: leaders in health care often fail to acknowledge a reality that leaders in other industries ...

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As a physician who left clinical medicine because of burnout and as a writer, I’m drawn to stories of physicians whose professional and personal lives have improved after reasoned interventions. So my ears jumped to attention earlier this month when a colleague at a summit on physician burnout described the positive results his practice had achieved in reducing burnout. Read Pierce, MD, is interim director of the Hospital Medicine Group ...

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview a faculty physician at a large academic medical center. We spoke about burnout in students and faculty in general terms. He was aware of the problem yet did not seem affected himself. I asked him how he managed to avoid burnout. He talked about remembering his purpose in entering medicine -- that the profession is a calling, not just the daily ...

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Why would a well-respected, venerable health care organization adopt a soft and squishy approach -- tracking disrespect and other forms of emotional harm -- to monitor its performance? In 2007, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a 672-bed health system affiliated with Harvard Medical School, adopted the audacious aim of eliminating all preventable harm by January 1, 2012. According to Kenneth Sands, MD, chief quality officer of BIDMC, the organization has ...

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I want to share a cool idea used at Mission Health in North Carolina. I recently interviewed Dr. Ron Paulus, CEO of the health system. Three years ago the organization launched “Immersion Day,” when board members leave their corporate meeting rooms to shadow the doctors and nurses in their hospitals. Journalists and legislators are also invited to join. They don scrubs, go through an orientation, sign privacy forms, and spend 9 ...

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Physicians have long been seen as superhuman -- able to jump the academic hurdles required to gain entrance to medical school, willingly delaying many of the gratifications associated with young adulthood, surviving long hours during training and later when in practice, keeping a cool head amidst crisis. In many ways, we physicians thrive on this image. Personally, I was unaware of how much I enjoyed the mantle of hero until I ...

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During the Q&A period after a presentation I gave recently on understanding and preventing physician burnout, a physician in the audience voiced her vehement objections to the current electronic health record (EHR) with a simple statement: “We need a revolution.” In a few words, she described her frustrations with the EHR. “It is meaningless -- full of fields that we cut and paste from other fields. There are an ever-growing number ...

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When I hung up my white coat for the last time and left the practice of medicine, the term, “physician burnout” was unfamiliar. It wasn’t until I stumbled across research studies many years later, in my work as a freelance writer, that I finally understood the underlying reasons that I needed to walk away. Today, you can’t read about health care without seeing the term. Does the widespread use of ...

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I chose to leave clinical medicine in 1996 after just three years as a general internist. At the time, I was certain that it was the right decision and necessary for my overall health, but could not have articulated all the reasons why I needed to leave. I loved both the intellectual challenge and the art of medicine. I thoroughly enjoyed my connections with patients. I regarded my professional life ...

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When I introduce myself as a physician who left clinical practice, non-physicians ask me why I left. They’re generally intrigued that someone who sacrificed many years and many dollars for medical training would then change her mind. But physicians, almost universally, never ask me why I left. Instead, they ask me how. They call and email me with logistical questions, wanting to learn the secret of how I managed the ...

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