The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

December 1, 2012

Mayo Clinic Health System taking steps to combat physician burnout

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Some doctors self-refer to get help, while others are referred by colleagues. In either case, it’s a confidential program that offers a full range of burnout response remedies. And the work environment, Hardesty said, is one that is accepting of physicians who seek help.

Said Panagiotakis, “The reason I joined 61⁄2 years ago is that I had a sense that I could work with anybody here.”

At one time there may have been a stigma about getting help for exhaustion or burnout. Now, though, Panagiotakis said the medical community has come a long way.

He compared it to soldiers returning from war over the years. After World Wars I and II, soldiers were expected to come home and simply forget the horrors they’d seen and transition into society. Decades later, afflictions such as post-traumatic stress disorder are accepted medical realities. So, too, is physician burnout.

“We’re seeing changes,” he said. “The overall culture has been shifting. If you have untreated burnout, you’re going to have bad outcomes. This study is starting to open some eyes.”

Hardesty agreed.

“It’s one of the most robust studies we’ve seen on this topic,” she said.

Mayo’s approach to dealing with burnout issues is actually twofold. Since 2002 they have been offering help through a so-called provider relations program, which connects physicians with services. And in the last year they’ve added a consultative service, which allows doctors to seek advice from other medical professionals.

The consultative portion hasn’t been used that much yet. But it’s new, and Mayo’s own research suggests the Mankato location may produce fewer physician clients for that service.

“We knew when we started the consultative services that we wouldn’t have doctors lining up saying we’re burned out,” Hardesty said. “But I think there is a shift in medicine. It’s easier for a resident to say ‘I’m tired, I’m going to go home and I’m not going to deliver this baby tonight.’”

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