Piedmont health systems addressing physician burnout

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Piedmont health systems are actively addressing physician burnout.

“The more physicians that burn out and give up on medicine, it puts a strain on the health care system and the care that we are able to give,” said Dr. Pamela Oliver, executive vice president and president for the Novant Healthy Physician Network.

That’s especially concerning for medicine as the industry prepares for a doctor shortage.

“We are looking at statistics that are estimating the doctor shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 people by 2025, that's an enormous gap,” said Dr. Lynn Anthony, associate dean for faculty affairs at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Physicians affiliated with Wake Forest Baptist Health, Novant Health and Cone Health told FOX8 that some of the pressure comes from growing demands and expectations, and more time focusing on documentation rather than face-to-face interactions with patients.

Dr. Cormac O’Donovan, associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, experienced burnout about six years ago.

He now serves as a mentor to physicians across the country.

When he took a few months off, he says he realized that he was not the only one, but that many doctors would express their feelings secretly.

He says that stigma is changing with support groups and an emphasis on self-care.

“You need to take breaks to regroup and fill up those different what I like to refer to as tanks of physical health, mental health and emotional health,” O’Donovan said.

Both Wake Forest Baptist Health and Novant Health have invested in resiliency programs among other initiatives addressing burnout.

Cone Health has partnered with the Center for Creative Leadership to put its doctors through the Physician Leadership Academy.

In this most recent graduating class, Dr. Doug Shaw, a physician with Guilford Medical Associates, was part of a team project that focused on physician burnout.

That research encouraged him to launch a pilot program at his practice that integrates medical scribes into the workflow.

“Adding the scribe increased my access. It increased my ability to see patients on the same day they needed to be seen,” Shaw said. “I’m actually on time more often than I've ever been in the past. I’m spending a lot less time at night doing work than I used to.”

As various health systems continue their research on burnout, the focus is expanding from doctors to clinicians in general.

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