Nearly 40% of physicians today say that they would not choose to enter the medical profession if given the opportunity to do it all over. That’s up from 1973, when fewer than 15% of physicians reported any doubts about career choices. Physician burnout rates are now twice as high in medicine as in other fields – even after adjustment for factors such as age, level of education, and hours worked in the past week (per the 2018 Medscape National Physician Burnout & Depression Report).
Physician burnout is at an all time high, but he highest rates of burnout occurred among neurologists, followed by family physicians, OB/GYNs and internists, then emergency medicine physicians and radiologist. Work pressure seems to affect employed and self-employed physicians equally, with 42% of each group reporting burnout. It also cuts across physician gender and ethnicity.
Physician burnout can affect your bottom line
The implications of physician burnout can directly affect your healthcare organization’s bottom line – largely because it can lead to higher levels of physician and staff turnover or lower retention rates. The National Academy of Medicine reports cross-sectional studies of physicians have found burnout to be independently associated with job dissatisfaction and more than 200 percent increased odds of intent to leave their job for reasons other than retirement.
In December 2017, JAMA published the findings from a team of researchers who attempted to quantify the return on investment (ROI) for programs to improve physician satisfaction. The result? A hypothetical organization investing in programs that reduced burnout showed a $1 million investment could save the organization $1.125 million per year in replacement costs associated with physician turnover – a 12.5 percent ROI. Their conclusion also estimated a reduction of burnout, cutting turnover by just 0.5 percent (20 percent of the 2.5 percent turnover rate attributable to burnout).
So, what’s a physician recruiter to do?
Be an agent of change. You and your organization can implement solutions that simplify administrative tasks for one, making it easier for doctor to focus on the aspects of their job that bring them the most meaning. Mindfulness training programs can be an effective and low-cost way to prevent physician burnout. Stanford Medicine offers one such program with videos, tips, classes for Healthcare Providers, and sell-assessment quiz. Mindfulness is especially suited to physicians, because it can help counteract the worrying, perfectionism and self-judgment that are so common among doctors.
Striking a healthy work-life balance is critical, but (like most of us) physicians have trouble asking for help. Growing awareness and ongoing solutions for burnout will help the physicians, the patients they serve – and the pocketbooks of hospitals and medical facilities like yours.
One final way to reduce burnout is to address it before it can start. That comes from a recruiting strategy that prioritizes finding the best fit candidates for a position. By focusing on finding a physician who fits well within the community and workplace, you can drastically reduce your amount of turnover. A decrease in physician burnout should mean measurable increases in quality of care and patient satisfaction, and by extension, higher physician retention and lower physician turnover.
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