AT SHM 2015

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – At HealthPartners Medical Group in Bloomington, Minn., SIM talks, or “something important to me,” are a part of regularly scheduled staff discussions.

SIM talks – which focus on sharing an important topic, value, or hobby with coworkers – are just one of several approaches designed to prevent physician burnout, Dr. Jerome Siy, department head for hospital medicine at HealthPartners, explained. SIM talks give physicians the freedom to share something important and to provide their team the chance to get to know them on another level. It is just one way to acknowledge the value and unique perspective of each individual on the team.

At the annual meeting of the Society of Hospital Medicine, Dr. Siy discussed how changing the systems in which physicians practice and bettering those environments can have an impact on mental status and improve the ability to handle stressors.

“At the end of the day, [easing and preventing burnout] is not just about how we’re doing up here,” Dr. Siy said, pointing to his head. “In many ways, it’s the effect of what the system is doing to us as well. We have to address (burnout) from every angle.”

Burnout is ubiquitous. A 2012 studyin JAMA Internal Medicine (172:1377-85 [ doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3199 ]) found nearly 50% of physicians had burnout. Doctors on the front lines of care access – family and emergency physicians – experienced the highest burnout rates.

In a March 2014 survey published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, 52% of 130 hospitalists reported burnout (9:176-81 [ doi:10.1002/jhm.2146. ]).

To combat burnout, physician engagement is key, said Dr. Siy, chair of the SHM practice management committee and SHM Minnesota chapter president.

“Engagement is a relationship,” he said. “It’s not about doing a task. It’s about being a part of that relationship as you’re working together.”

Concrete ways that hospitalists can stimulate engagement within their work environments include improving communication, strengthening physicians’ value and purpose, promoting autonomy, and generating leadership opportunities.

Performance reviews are a perfect opportunity for physicians and staff members to improve communication and discuss issues, concerns and ideas, Dr. Siy said. These conversations need to happen more than once a year. Other opportunities for engagement include regular meetings to provide opportunities for doctors to discuss and give feedback on important topics.

Creating an environment in which open communication is nurtured helps physicians develop relationships, feel their voices are heard, and reduce bottled frustration.

Strengthening physicians’ sense of value and purpose is also critical, Dr. Siy said. Approaches can include developing a forum where hospitalists can share cases and discuss experiences. Additionally, physicians involved in volunteer or community activities should be celebrated and their accomplishments recognized.

Value and purpose are an important part of engagement, he said. “It helps to remember that our focus is on patient care.”

Building autonomy and sense of care and quality could mean participating in quality improvement activities and encouraging opportunities for doctors to be innovative.

Every doctor should also have an opportunity to grow, Dr. Siy said. Whether it’s enabling physicians to attend a conference or getting them involved in an annual retreat, cultivating leadership is vital.

Getting physicians engaged is about finding that niche, and helping doctors to grow as individuals. Letting them know that you care and that the system cares is key, he said.

On Twitter @legal_med


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