American Medical Association: Why Physician Wellbeing Is a Two-Way Street
The American Medical Association (AMA) recently interviewed Waguih W. IsHak, MD, vice chair of Education and Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, about the warning signs of physician burnout and ways that physicians can help themselves by focusing on their own wellbeing.
The ongoing pandemic has been especially challenging for physicians, many of whom had already been struggling to take care of themselves before COVID-19 hit. The past two years have made it clear that physicians and healthcare organizations must take steps to avoid physician burnout, IsHak told the AMA.
"We've seen a lot of physicians really having to juggle so many aspects of not just taking great care of patients, but also focusing on making their own wellness a priority," IsHak told the AMA. "COVID brought it totally to the front, where it became a lot harder to balance all the demands as well as keeping one's wellness in check."
IsHak said that exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficiency are three signs of burnout that can lead to anxiety and poor work performance. A physician who feels burned out can become indifferent to joy. They might have low energy levels and trouble sleeping, or they might sleep too much. They might lose their appetite or overeat to compensate for their feelings.
IsHak recommended taking three approaches to treat burnout:
- Taking medication that can help reduce the severity of depression and regulate body function
- Using therapy or life coaching to help get engaged again in life activities and the pursuit of happiness
- Participating in wellness activities, including exercise, eating well, getting outdoors and connecting with others, which can improve mental health
Physicians must prioritize looking after themselves, but the burden doesn’t fall entirely on them, IsHak said. "Physician wellness is not a one-way street … it's a two-way street," he told the AMA. "The individual has to do things to keep their body and mind in a good place, and that's the individual's responsibility. The health care system's responsibility is maintaining and preventing burnout and improving wellness."
Click here to read the complete article and see the video from the American Medical Association.