Most pediatricians have burnout. Here’s what it takes to fix that.

. 4 MIN READ
By
Marc Zarefsky , Contributing News Writer

In 2022, 55% of pediatricians reported experiencing burnout, and a staggering 48% said they did not feel valued.

Those statistics came from more than 13,000 physicians and nonphysician providers who participated in the AMA's Organizational Biopsy®. Leaders at Texas Children’s Pediatrics believe they have found a way to reduce burnout among physicians while improving their sense of feeling valued, and it comes down to one word: communication.

Fighting physician burnout

Reducing burnout is essential to high-quality patient care and a sustainable health system. The AMA measures and responds to physician burnout, helping drive solutions and interventions.

A burnout committee existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic at Texas Children's Pediatrics—a member of the AMA Health System Program, which provides enterprise solutions to equip leadership, physicians and care teams with resources to help drive the future of medicine.

But as the pandemic wore on, that group became the physician engagement and wellness committee, with the goal of "giving physicians a voice at the table," said Dan Gollins, president at Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Urgent Care.

Gollins and Sapna Singh, MD, who directs physician engagement and wellness at Texas Children's Pediatrics, talked about their new initiative and how it's making a difference in a recent episode of “AMA Update.”

Gollins was named the organization’s president, and one of his first action items was to travel across Texas to the more than 80 locations under the Texas Children's Pediatrics umbrella. The goal was to listen to how pediatricians were doing and what they needed. Their answers were clear.

"What I heard was people felt abandoned," Gollins said. "They felt alone. And they were tired."

The organization established the physician engagement and wellness committee to open lines of communication between physicians and leadership so that needs and challenges could be better understood and more easily addressed. Dr. Singh was voted director by her peers to serve as a bridge between the medical staff and the organization's board.

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Now, when physicians have concerns, or have ideas to improve workplace inefficiencies, they have an avenue to make sure their thoughts are heard and addressed.

For example, EHR inbox messages from patients to their physicians became lengthier during the pandemic, and the amount of time needed to read, comprehend and address those messages increased. The physician engagement and wellness committee heard the concern and developed a solution: establish a character limit for EHR inbox messages.

"We've been able to address certain things that we didn't even know were concerns until they were brought back to us in this fashion," Dr. Singh said.

Reducing physician burnout is a critical component of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

Far too many American physicians experience burnout. That's why the AMA develops resources that prioritize well-being and highlight workflow changes so physicians can focus on what matters—patient care.

During earlier phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Singh routinely found herself struggling with the rise in depression and anxiety among child patients. She felt she lacked adequate answers and solutions to offer her patients and their families, and that brought on her own feelings of insecurity and burnout.

Dr. Singh brought those concerns to the committee, and Texas Children's Pediatrics in turn invested in a workshop designed to teach primary care physicians how to handle psychiatric care in the clinic. The program was offered to all physicians across Texas Children's Pediatrics, and so far more than 200 have participated.

The results, Dr. Singh said, have been life altering.

"I was able to—within one week of having had that course—go into a clinic room, see a child who had an issue, and finally have a solution," she said. "That one act alone was so incredibly helpful to us in our day-to-day work and in the work that I do with my patients."

AMA Update” is your source for physician-focused news. Hear from physicians and other experts on trending public health concerns, practice issues and more—because who’s doing the talking matters. Catch every episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or listen to all AMA podcasts at ama-assn.org/podcasts.

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