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Focus on Your Why to Prevent Burnout
Focus on Your Why to Prevent Burnout

Are you able to focus on your Why? I hope you are, because this is key to preventing burnout.

Your Why is your mission. The thing that motivates you to do what you do, that brings meaning to your work. For most clinicians, our Why is the healing relationship we have with our patients. For many of us, it’s become harder and harder to focus on our Why. There have been so many changes in the last 10 years that create barriers to our ability to focus, to connect with the meaning in our work. When we can’t connect with our Why, with the meaning in our work, our risk for burnout grows significantly.

Changes to Help You Focus on Your Why

For much of the last few years as burnout has become a bigger issue for physicians and healthcare organizations, most of the work to reduce burnout has been directed at improving physician resilience. Significant resources have gone into teaching mindfulness, encouraging proper self-care, and providing burnout coaches. These are all helpful, but are simply treating the symptoms without addressing the cause of the disease.

In the last year I have seen a significant change. More leaders, of physician groups, academic institutions, and healthcare systems are taking action to address two other key issues that drive burnout: the top down leadership culture so prevalent in healthcare, and the chaotic clinical workplace that frustrates physicians as they try to provide high quality care to their patients.

Two Recent Conferences with a Re-Focus on Your Why

Two weeks ago, the American Conference on Physician Health (ACPH) was jointly hosted by the Mayo Clinic, Stanford, and the AMA. The model they have jointly developed recognizes the importance of Personal Resilience, but clearly makes the point that this is only a small part of what’s needed to address burnout. The model includes equal emphasis on:

  • Developing a Culture of Wellness, and
  • Improving the Efficiency of Practice

An equal focus on all three provides the opportunity to enhance Professional Fulfillment.

Last week, the Group Practice Improvement Network (GPIN), held it’s semi-annual meeting in Seattle. Two hundred sixty leaders of some sixty medical groups across the USA came together to look for opportunities to improve, sharing their challenges and learnings with each other, as well as hearing presentations from leading national experts.

The first presenter was David Mead from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why consulting group. In his talk, Start with Why, he explained the importance of keeping focused on what brings meaning to our personal and professional lives as we face an onslaught of factors that pull our attention away. Tait Shanafelt, MD, a world leader in research into physician burnout, spoke on Finding Meaning, Balance, and Personal Satisfaction in the Practice of Medicine to GPIN the key messages that he and others had presented the week before at the ACPH meeting. Finally, Andy Slavitt, who led CMS under President Obama, spoke on Managing Change and Realizing Our Values in a Dynamic Healthcare System. He reviewed the many challenges patients and care providers face as they navigate the changing healthcare system in these turbulent political times.

In the GPIN discussions it was clear that most medical group leaders understand the importance of helping their physicians regain the ability to focus on their Why. They also acknowledged that providing the needed resources and culture changes is challenging in the current landscape.

A Small Step for Physicians to Focus on Your Why

I am pleased to see this growing refocus away from strictly promoting individual resilience, and toward fixing the factors that truly drive burnout. Regular readers of this website will recall that there are six drivers of burnout:

  • Work Overload
  • Lack of Control
  • Insufficient Reward
  • Breakdown of Community
  • Absence of Fairness
  • Conflicting Values

Promoting individual resilience does little, if anything at all, to address the burnout drivers. Developing a Culture of Wellness and improving the Efficiency of Practice directly impact all six.

It’s about time that these became the focus. Now is the time for physicians and their leadership to join together to capitalize on this opportunity.

What will you do in order to do your part to regain a Focus on Your Why?


One Response to Focus on Your Why to Prevent Burnout

  1. Excellent post and a clear synopsis of the subject. I agree that much of the current dissatisfaction leading to burnout are the many pressures that physicians feel – financial and quality targets that often seem in conflict, a need to earn, coupled with the loss of control of many of these domains. As a physician exec, I believe that it is our responsibility to develop a culture of wellness. Simultaneously, to achieve long term success, we need to empower our front line providers and give them the tools they need to help design more efficient practices and a system that produces better value for all.

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