MNAAP Group Examines Physician Burnout


Starting in early 2022, an ad hoc group of MNAAP members, led by MNAAP Past President Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP, met to discuss physician burnout. The topic was raised as an area of concern through the 2021 All Member Survey, and with good reason. Nationally, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in October 2022 that prevalence of burnout increased for all pediatric disciplines from 2011 to 2014. During that time, general pediatricians experienced a more than 10 percent increase in burnout, from 35.3 percent to 46.3 percent. These numbers are pre-COVID-19 pandemic and do not reflect the experiences or emotions many physicians weathered.

The group focused their collective attention on burnout prevention and ways to improve provider self care. Members met several times via Zoom to discuss their own experiences and offer suggestions for helpful resources and ideas. Participants expressed an understanding that they may not be able to change the systems they work in, but they wanted  to try and come up with things that may help individuals advocate for what they need to be happier in their job and feel less burned out. Some of the ideas and themes that emerged through discussion were:

  • The need for resource lists that can help if you are suffering from burnout or help others who think a colleague/friend may be suffering from burnout. Similarly, identifying therapists who specialize in working with pediatricians/clinicians suffering from burnout.
  • Some of the hospitals/health care systems have employee resource centers that can be helpful to employees with all sorts of needs, including needing to talk to a therapist. 
  • Engaging in conversation with peer-to-peer support partners or physician coaches can be helpful. Doctors often feel guilt (from their organization or their colleagues) when making decisions to take care of themselves. We need to be supportive of our colleagues, not put them down for looking out for their own well being.
  • Non-compete clauses, especially in smaller communities, can be quite difficult as there aren’t options to change to a different clinic.
  • Advocating for more time to see patients has brought more joy into the job.

Some articles group members shared as being helpful included:

“Getting Rid of Stupid Stuff”- The New England Journal of Medicine 

In an effort to reduce unintended burdens for clinicians, leaders at a health system in Hawaii asked all employees to look at their daily documentation experience and report anything in the EHR that they thought was poorly designed, unnecessary, or just plain stupid.

“Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Integration in Physicians During the First 2 Years of the COVID-19 Pandemic” – Mayo Clinic Proceedings 

Researchers surveyed more than 2,400 physicians between December 9, 2021 and January 24, 2022 to evaluate burnout, work-life integration, depression and professional fulfillment. Results were compared to results from 2020, 2017, 2014 and 2011.  

“Physician Distress and Burnout: The Neurobiological Perspective”- Mayo Clinic Proceedings 

In this article, the co-authors examine how burnout and distress may lead to reduced motivation, unprofessional behavior, and suboptimal communication with patients.

“Wellness-Centered Leadership: Equipping Health Care Leaders to Cultivate Physician Well-Being and Professional Fulfillment” – Academic Medicine

The authors propose a new model of Wellness-Centered Leadership (WCL), which includes core skills and qualities from the foremost leadership philosophies, along with evidence on the relationship between leadership and physician well-being. It distills them into a single framework designed to cultivate leadership behaviors that promote engagement and professional fulfillment. 

Hennepin Health R.I.S.E program for helping the well being of residents – Hennepin Healthcare’s Resident Integrated Support Environment (R.I.S.E) Program addresses the mental, financial, and physical health needs of residents by offering integrated support. 

November 2022 AAP: “Physician Health and Wellness” –

This report explores approaches to pediatrician well-being and reduction of occupational burnout risk throughout the stages of training and practice. 

Click here for links to the articles mentioned by burnout group members, as well as a list of mental health providers who specifically work with physicians.

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