More than half of physicians in the United States experience symptoms of burnout, according to several studies. That includes depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and feeling that their accomplishments don’t make a difference.

“We acknowledge the challenges providers face every day, and we are committed to addressing burnout and fostering well-being,” said Heather Farley, M.D., director of Provider Wellbeing. “When providers are supported and feel fulfilled in their work, they can do their best in providing high-quality care for patients.”

To that end, Christiana Care Health System is a leader in initiatives to promote provider well-being. The Center for Provider Wellbeing symposium held on March 27 and 28 was the latest in a comprehensive strategy to support providers and address burnout.

Heather Farley, M.D.

Keynote speaker Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic, a researcher and national expert on physician burnout, said evidence indicates burnout is increasing for health care providers, undermining their feelings of value about their work. He described the personal, economic, and patient-care-related consequences of burnout.

Resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity – has been described as a protective factor against burnout that can be cultivated in individuals and integrated into an organization’s culture. Dr. West noted that improving personal resilience is important but it is not sufficient. An essential component is also creating a work environment that enables providers to truly flourish.

Colin West, M.D., Ph.D.
The Christiana Care Diamond

Dr. West talked about shifting from health care’s Triple Aim — improving population health, increasing patient satisfaction and reducing per-capita health care spending — to the Quadruple Aim, which includes the goal of enhancing the provider experience. Christiana Care’s expression of the Quadruple Aim is found in the Diamond: Optimal Health, Exceptional Experience, Organizational Vitality and Extraordinary People.

A panel discussion and question-and-answer session on the causes of burnout and ways to nurture well-being followed. Panelists included: Joseph Bennett, M.D., president-elect, Christiana Care Medical-Dental Staff; Nathan Merriman, M.D., chair, Physician Leadership Network Governance Committee and co-chief, Gastroenterology Section; Patricia Moore, M.D., chair, Surgical Service Line Exceptional Experience Team; and Margot Savoy, M.D., medical director, Department of Family & Community Medicine.

Already, Christiana Care has implemented provider well-being initiatives including:

  • The Care for the Caregiver peer support program for adverse events and medical errors.
  • The Provider Litigation Program, which provides support and educational resources for providers in medical malpractice litigation.
  • Vital Worklife, a provider-focused program offering coaching, counseling, and work/life concierge services.

The center also offers executive coaching and leadership skills training for physician leaders. In February, interns learned ways to cope with stress, enhance mindfulness and care for themselves at WinternFest, part of a series for physicians in training.

The center is working with the Value Institute to investigate burnout among the Medical-Dental Staff, which includes physicians, advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, and to establish baseline measures for provider well-being. The Value Institute helped tailor a provider well-being survey, developed by Stanford University’s WellMD program, for Christiana Care. More than 1,100 physicians, nurses and other staff completed the survey, which will be administered annually.
Data gathered will be used to establish provider well-being as a key quality metric for the institution. The center will utilize this data to assist clinical areas in decreasing burnout and improving the provider experience.

Additional programs are being developed.

Christiana Care has contracted with Vital WorkLife for behavioral health, peer coaching and professional development. The service is completely anonymous and free to all members of the Medical-Dental staff. To learn more, call 877-731-3949.