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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

To Beat Clinician Burnout, Empower Your Team to Fix Their Workplace

Clinician burnout is not due to a lack of individual resilience. Burnout is the manifestation, in an individual, of dysfunction in that person’s workplace. Workplaces today are rife with barriers and frustrations that drive burnout.


​If you are serious about reducing burnout a great place to start is by fixing the workplace. That can sound like a big lift. It doesn’t have to be.


You may think your people are feeling so overworked, cynical, and burned out, that they’ll resist any attempts to change things. They may at first. That’s a natural response to change.


If take a traditional management, top-down, command and control approach, I can guarantee you that they will rebel.


​Engage Your Healthcare Team with Meaningful Involvement to Reduce Clinician Burnout


If instead you offer them an opportunity to be involved in designing and implementing the change, take the time to listen to their concerns and ideas, and stay close to them in the process, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by their engagement.


Today’s workforce is made up of knowledge workers.


What's a knowledge worker? According to Peter Drucker, known as "the father of modern management", a knowledge worker is someone who know more about their work than their manager does, and whose job requires them to have the autonomy to make decisions independently and innovate quickly.


Top-down management does not work with knowledge workers


Most workers today have been through years of post-graduate education and training before they are ready for their first “real job”. They gain a lot of knowledge during those years, in order to be able to work as an independent creative.


​Leading with empowerment and alignment does works


I’m a doctor. During my 25 years of practicing family medicine, I wanted the autonomy to be able to fix things that were not working well in my clinic. I knew what the problems were. I had good ideas about how to fix them.


I’m also a leader. During the five years I was CEO of a 300-physician medical group, the thought of 300 doctors all autonomously fixing their problems independently, the way that they saw fit, made me worried that entropy would tear our group apart.


​Fortunately, I found an approach that empowered all of our physicians to collaborate on fixing the clinical workplaces while aligning them around our enterprise-wide success. They achieved the professional fulfillment that they deserved. And our patients received the highest overall rated care among 170 medical groups across the State of California, at least that's how Consumer Reports and the California State Health Performance Information system (CSPI) rated us.


Leading with empowerment and alignment mitigates the drivers of burnout:


  • Work overload - fixing problems reduces redundancy and waste

  • Lack of control - empowerment by definition gives people control

  • Insufficient rewards - autonomy is one of the intangible rewards we expect for having committed to our professional development

  • Breakdown of community - alignment is best achieved by collaborating with colleagues, working together in community

  • Absence of fairness – the unwritten agreement we expect as knowledge workers is violated by top-down management and honored by empowerment and alignment

  • Conflicting values – knowledge workers value autonomy, and we feel the conflict when we are under command-and-control management

Get Started - Book an Appointment with Dr. Paul DeChant


Leading in this way requires strength and humility, accompanied by a clear vision of future for your organization. It requires excellent communication skills and emotional intelligence to connect with your people and overcome their initial skepticism. It requires building a leadership team you can count on.


It's challenging work getting started, but once in place it is a far easier and more enjoyable way to lead. And it gets better results. 


If you would like to learn more about how to get started, or keep such a process going, feel free to reach out to me at paul@pauldecntmd.com or click on the book appointment button and schedule at time to talk.

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