Physician wellness: Avoid the midseason burn

Jonathan Eisenberg, MD

It’s winter. The waiting room has had to bring in extra chairs to handle the overflow, and you are likely working your way through your 3rd or 4th URI of the season. The new staffing model for extra help during the busy season worked the first day but has since devolved into an extra doc following up on respiratory panels from last week. People are wearing their emotions as the next patient with a cough/congestion chief complaint gets checked in.

Physician wellness and its counterpart, burnout, are two of the buzzwords that have captured the medical zeitgeist of the past decade. Although they may be a little overused, their importance cannot be overstated—especially in these overworked, sun setting at 2pm, cold days. It has become so important that there is now a physician wellness fellowship at Stanford. Multiple research papers and physician groups have identified the issues that seem to affect us all: EMRs, documentation, patient loads, insurance nightmares, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization. Some ways to combat burnout and promote wellness are obvious but may not feasible—cutting patient loads, taking a walk during lunch, or outsourcing your more nominal daily activities. But we are emergency medicine physicians, we do not have a say in patient loads, and I feel lucky when I can eat a sandwich at my computer on wheels in between patients (don’t take away our food in the ED…). read more