For Stressed Docs, Where to Turn?

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , January 19, 2012

How do physicians want help with stress? Their top choice by far in the survey (63% of respondents) is receiving more "ancillary support," such as physician aides or other staff members to help with paperwork or charting.

Respondents also say there is a need for more "advanced providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can provide accessible and effective care as physicians scale back their hours."

It is interesting that physicians are calling for more nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help with their workload, as many at the same time decry "Obamacare."

For the most part, docs aren't fans of Obama or the Democrats. Yet the administration may be the driving force behind putting in place help to offset their workload. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, $32 million is earmarked for developing more than 600 physician assistant positions, and another $30 million for 600 nurse practitioners, as well as 500 new primary care physicians by 2015.

Ironically, if doctors can't rely on their own hospital systems to initiate programs to help them deal with stress, they may find relief coming from Washington.

Doctors still control what may be their best options for addressing stress and burnout: 63% say they rely on exercise, and 59% say they spend time with family or friends.

I think one physician says it best in the survey: "We have to find a way to help docs recognize burnout. We didn't get through medical training by thinking how it affected us; we just put our heads down and muscled through," she writes. "You can do anything for eight years, but you can't live that way for 40 years. We need to encourage ourselves to develop an external barometer so someone can tell us we're burning out."

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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