CMO Brief: Physician Burnout and My Perspective

Physician burnout survey continues to show it's a major problem in healthcare

I‘ve been thinking about burnout quite a bit lately (mostly in relation to my own career), but I think that there are lessons that are more broadly applicable, so I figured I’d share over the next few posts.

I began my hospitalist career as a program director, juggling clinical and administrative responsibilities. At the same time, as part of the job, I was also juggling my obligations to the hospitalists in my group and the hospital. My move out of management, with a transition to 100% clinical work, relieved a significant amount of perceived stress, but it created a new problem. Doing clinical work all day, every day, was starting to leave me feeling burnt out. While there are always great moments in hospitalist work, the headaches were beginning to pile up, with no relief in sight.

About seven years ago, I began to work for MedAptus as Chief Medical Officer. At first it was only 25% of my time, but over the years, my role (and time commitment) has increased. At first, I thought this may end up creating many of the same problems I had during my time as a hospitalist program director. However, I’ve found it to be the opposite.

Now, I do one week of clinical work, alternating with one week of my work at MedAptus. What I’m finding is that I’m never doing anything long enough to grow frustrated or bored. Each week presents its own unique challenges, and before any frustration sets in, the week is over, and it’s time to use a different set of skills. And each time I change, I’m looking forward to my week because I’m feeling refreshed and interested again. This is why I always encourage my hospitalist colleagues to develop interests (and skills) that they can use in a context outside of the daily practice of medicine. Now not everyone can (or wants to) divide up their time 50/50, but adding something to your month that isn’t one more day clinical medicine can really help to keep things fresh.
Next time, we’ll talk about patient loads.