Greater focus on self-care can reduce burnout and improve work-life balance for providers
Swiner CN, et al. Doctors and personal care: does the balance really exist during a global pandemic? Presented at: American Association of Clinical Endocrinology Annual Scientific and Clinical Conference; May 12-14, 2022; San Diego.
Disclosures: Swiner does not report any relevant financial information.
SAN DIEGO — Medical providers can reduce burnout by focusing more on self-care and work-life balance, according to a speaker at AACE’s annual scientific and clinical conference.
According to the results of a survey of more than 20,000 American doctors published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in December 2021, one in five physicians plan to leave medicine within 2 years due to COVID-19-related burnout, including stress, grief, illness, feeling undervalued or underpaid, receive less support or feel overworked. C.Nicole Swiner, MDmanaging director of Serenity Hydration & Wellness in Durham, North Carolina, and former founding partner and family physician at Durham Family Medicine, said there may be a lack of medical professionals available to care for patients if too providers decide to quit In the coming years.
“We all deal with stress, but we don’t have the same amount of tools to deal with it for different reasons,” Swiner said during the presentation. “We need to level the playing field so that we all have access to things that make us feel better.”
Overcome Mental Obstacles
Swiner said providers can face several mental barriers that can lead to stress and burnout. One is the superwoman or superman complex, which is when a person tries to do too much between work, family, and extracurricular activities while ignoring their own self-care needs. Another is impostor syndrome, where a person internally believes that they are not as bright or successful as people believe, despite their academic and professional achievements.
“These thoughts are going through our heads, which keeps us from wondering what we really need,” Swiner said.
Swiner listed several simple steps providers can take to overcome these obstacles. These include engaging in positive self-talk, learning to accept and believe compliments, making a list of strengths, remembering how awesome they are, realizing that perfection is n is unrealistic and to seek help if necessary.
Another important strategy is saying no, something Swiner said is key to self-preservation and setting boundaries.
“Saying no is a self-defense practice,” Swiner said. “It will help you feel liberated. ‘Say no’, more.
To promote self-care, providers should create a list of activities to reduce stress, such as therapy, meditation, music, nature, and more. Swiner encouraged making time for these activities and revisiting the list when life gets overwhelming.
Reduce stress at work
In the workplace, employers can take several steps to help healthcare professionals during the pandemic, including engaging in more transparent communication, providing more childcare support, creating faster training for the deployment to unfamiliar units, providing sufficient adequate personal protective equipment, creating supportive environments, ensuring access to confidential mental health services and reducing work overload through better teamwork.
Individually, providers can reduce their stress levels by understanding the roles of their support staff, hiring more support, calling patients only when needed, not letting others take advantage of it, and seeking compensation for services, having a method to track results, being an effective communicator, taking vacations and mental health days, dismissing troublesome patients, having allies and mentors, having a fun bag ready to spontaneously engage in enjoyable activities and start a side job to better engage in your own passion.
Finally, Swiner said, everyone should see a mental health professional regularly to guide them through life’s obstacles.
“We all need a therapist,” Swiner said. “It has literally helped me with the stresses of life in general. While we practice medicine, life goes on, our parents are getting older, our children are going through difficulties and we are trying to keep things going at home. We need unbiased people to talk to.”
- Sinsky CA, et al. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Results. 2021; doi:10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2021.08.007.