COMMENTARY: Doctors report that they’re looking for help

Professional burnout is a real and troubling phenomenon for physicians.

Last summer, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) sent a survey to physicians across Ohio asking about their experience with workplace burnout — and the results were striking. The survey, which drew more than 1,500 responses in just five days, found that nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they need help addressing their own burnout issues and nearly four of every five said they were certain a colleague needed such help.

Physicians added personal comments to the survey, saying they felt it was a “very common problem that affects physician performance,” and “burnout is one of those silent diseases; if no one talks about it, it doesn’t happen.”

Unfortunately, these results among Ohio physicians closely mirror what is occurring across the country, as more doctors struggle to effectively balance caring for patients against mounting workplace mandates, long hours, payer issues, staffing concerns, government influence, and their personal lives.

This issue is not isolated to the physician. Everyone has had to visit a doctor at some point in their life and many people are under the constant care of a physician. It is vitally important that the person trained to provide medical care for others is also able to assure they are taking care of themselves. A physician with a healthy attitude about his/her life and career is better positioned to provide high-quality medical care to patients.

As the current president of the OSMA, I am making physician burnout a chief focus of my leadership. I am overseeing a new OSMA initiative to analyze the known root causes of this problem in medicine and find solutions. In the interim, we are in the process of developing a physician burnout education program that will help physicians recognize symptoms of burnout and find solutions to help overcome it. I hope the program will be in place before the end of this year.

The reality is that to go through the long years of rigorous training to become a physician requires resiliency. The resiliency is already within the physician. Finding ways to foster and enhance resiliency requires healing the broken health care system and ultimately improving the quality of patient care.

The Ohio State Medical Association is up for this challenge, and we know many physicians will be counting on it.

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Evangeline Andarsio, MD, is president of the Ohio State Medical Association.

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