MD burnout at 'alarming' level, part 2—spotlight on the ED

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Although all physicians face a higher than average risk of burnout, emergency physicians hold the dubious honor of topping the charts. Few remedies are available and more are needed, according to a contributed piece published in the March issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Now is the time to evaluate the burnout problem and identify remedies, according to Eric Berger. A study published Oct. 8, 2012, in Archives of Internal Medicine detailed the problem, which could exacerbate as the healthcare system undergoes dramatic shifts in care delivery and payment reform.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) administers the Maslach burnout test to approximately 500 physicians at its wellness booth every year at its scientific assembly. The organization provides articles and resources to physicians whose responses suggest burnout, and offers peer-to-peer counseling. Its website also includes tools and resources for physicians.

However, these steps may not plug the dike. That’s because physicians may fail to self-diagnose or may be reluctant to seek help. Berger outlines several additional strategies that may provide additional relief.

  • Scheduling—emergency shift schedules can disrupt circadian rhythms and trigger fatigue. Managers should focus on livable schedules.
  • Workload—“Government must find a way to address the decreasing number of EDs but increasing number of visitors, both of which increase fatigue for emergency physicians.”
  • Peer connections—Physicians should connect with colleagues to prevent and ameliorate burnout.