Take practical steps toward a healthier culture for medicine

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

Addressing the widespread, distressing phenomenon of physician burnout must rely on changing the underlying culture within health care organizations that contributes to the problem. Fortunately, there are commonsense fixes that physician practices, hospitals and health systems can employ to achieve stronger cultures and alleviate burnout.

Here are five AMA STEPS Forward™ modules available to help create a culture of well-being in physician practices and health systems.

Creating the Organizational Foundation for Joy in Medicine™.” When physicians and their teams are more engaged and satisfied, they will provide better, safer, more compassionate care to patients, which can help to reduce the total costs of care.

With a systems-based organizational approach that targets the cultural, practice and personal domains that must be addressed to improve physician well-being, burnout can be prevented. This module provides physicians and health care leaders with nine steps for creating the organizational, structural elements that support joy, purpose and meaning in work.

Preventing Physician Burnout.” With an increase in administrative responsibilities due to regulatory pressures and evolving payment and care delivery models, physicians are spending less time delivering direct patient care. This can lead to physician burnout, which affects about 50 percent of practicing doctors.

Because burnout can have a significant impact on organizational productivity, morale, costs and quality of care, it is important to know how to measure and respond to this epidemic. By completing this STEPS Forward module, physicians and their organizations can reduce the sources of stress and intervene with programs and policies that support professional well-being.

Creating Strong Team Culture.” An organization’s culture is reflected in by its work and its values. Culture also helps determine the success or failure of process transformation. By building a strong team culture, a physician practice or health system can maintain efficiency and remain proficient in a fast-paced care environment that is constantly growing. In this module, physicians and their teams will learn 10 steps to follow when building a stronger, healthier team culture.

Improving Physician Resiliency.” Physicians often experience burnout caused by demanding workloads, nights on call and other common clinic stressors. Learning resiliency helps physicians have longer, more satisfying careers and reduces the risk of burnout. By promoting well-being and improving personal resiliency, physicians can also positively impact patients and the practice as a whole. This module on physician resiliency outlines six key steps improve well-being.

Listen with empathy.” When physician practices or health systems listen with empathy, it can improve patient satisfaction. It can also help patients and their families remain more open to hearing their physician’s advice.

Practicing empathy can save time and effectively defuse situations while also developing deeper connections with patients and creating greater professional satisfaction and joy in work for physicians. This module offers eight steps to help physicians and their health care team listen with empathy.

Several modules have been developed from the generous grant funding of the federal Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative (TCPI), an effort designed to help clinicians achieve large-scale health transformation through TCPI’s Practice Transformation Networks.

The AMA, in collaboration with TCPI, is providing technical assistance and peer-level support by way of STEPS Forward resources to enrolled practices. The AMA is also engaging the national physician community in health care transformation through network projects, change packages, success stories and training modules.