Psychiatric Group Offers Prescription for Physician Burnout

The American Psychiatric Association created an online wellness portal and other resources to help psychiatrists avoid and manage professional burnout.

A nationwide epidemic is plaguing many healthcare providers—professional burnout and mental health issues like depression. And psychiatrists are no exception.

The American Psychiatric Association estimates that 44 percent of psychiatrists have professional burnout. While that number is on the lower end of the spectrum compared to other healthcare professions, APA Deputy Medical Director Tristan Gorrindo, MD, attributes those burnout levels to a psychiatrist shortage and the fact that half of psychiatrists are not working within a clinic or hospital.

“The data suggests that, if you have more control over your practice, you are less likely to be burned out,” he said.

Knowing the extent of the problem in its community, APA decided to spearhead the issue in 2017, with its efforts culminating in a national campaign, as well as an online portal and toolkit.

APA President Anita Everett, MD, formed the Ad-hoc Workgroup on Psychiatrist Well-being and Burnout—composed of medical leaders, educators, and psychometrics experts—to make recommendations regarding the development of activities and products to facilitate APA’s focus on this area.

As a part of that work, APA launched a Well-being and Burnout portal in December 2017. The site provides a number of resources, including videos and a self-assessment tool. Psychiatrists who take the assessment respond to various statements on a sliding scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” and can compare their results in real time to those of other respondents.

There are also resources on the portal that apply to practices and organizations. For example, psychiatrists can access the Toolkit for Well-being Ambassadors [PDF] to guide them as they advocate for wellness in their own practice settings.

“There are individual-level interventions like meditation, yoga, and stress management,” said Gorrindo. But “what we’ve learned is that system interventions are the most effective. [We’re] giving members the tools to advocate for these changes on a systems level.”

The good news is that these wellness tools seem to be meeting a need. According to Gorrindo, after only two months, 1,000 of the website’s visitors have taken the self-assessment. He added that APA will use the anonymous data to plan future professional burnout prevention content and resources.

APA is also extending its well-being lessons and resources beyond the psychiatric community. The organization has partnered with the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Medicine, and others to reach as many healthcare providers as possible.

For Gorrindo, the negative effects that burnout has on physicians, trainees, and overall quality of healthcare make it a hot-button issue that APA will not be putting down any time soon.

“We have an important role to play for the rest of medicine,” he said. “It’s clear it’s not something you can solve in a year. [But] we really feel this is a great starting point.”

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Cherise Bathersfield

By Cherise Bathersfield

Cherise Bathersfield is a contributing writer for Associations Now. MORE

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