28 January 2015

Emergency Department Burnout: The Right Leaders with the Right Tools

More than 50 percent of ED doctors suffer from burnout at some point in their career. Burnout is particularly acute in this specialty: emergency medicine and critical care specialists suffer burnout at a 16 percent higher rate than the next highest specialty (family medicine), according to a 2013 Medscape Medical News study. The problem is made even more difficult by the widespread labor shortage in the emergency medicine market, which is expected to last for at least the next few decades.

In the face of these challenges, how can hospitals maintain a stable ED team and ultimately deliver better patient outcomes and experiences? While there is no silver bullet to solve this problem, one option is to provide ED physicians with resources that help them perform more efficiently and – in some cases – even report higher job satisfaction.

ED Physician Tools and Resources

Sheridan’s ED Physician Portal provides resources to address some of the concurrent issues that lead to burnout. The stressors that cause physician burnout can be sorted into two primary types: practical and emotional. Practical stressors are clear steps in a process that lead to dissatisfaction. The Medscape study lists several of them in its top 10 causes of burnout: “Too many bureaucratic tasks,” “Too many hours at work,” and “Income not high enough.” Emotional stressors are oftentimes vague and are usually more about empowering the individual than changing an ED process. Medscape lists “Feeling like just a cog in the wheel” as their #3 cause of burnout, for example.

Sheridan Emergency Medicine offers several resources to address both stressor types and can help the broader organization identify the best ways to serve its emergency medicine physicians:

  • The Emergency Medicine Practice Support Team link connects Sheridan’s local ED physicians to Sheridan’s national Emergency Medicine Leadership and Support Service teams, which includes Sheridan’s Kaizen, Operations and Clinical Quality teams. Sheridan’s Clinical and Operations leadership teams are always accessible to provide guidance and support to our Clinical Chiefs and clinicians. Likewise, the Suggestion Box allows ED physicians to air their concerns and be sure that Sheridan’s Emergency Medicine Leadership will see them.
  • Sheridan’s Leadership Development Program enables leaders at all levels to grow and enhance their ability to elevate the overall performance of their departments. Educational resources are made available, including programs from The Sullivan Group on risk mitigation, as well as premier education websites and audio series for emergency physicians.
  • ClearPATh ED helps ED physicians execute on efficiency and throughput. This lean workflow streamlines the patient experience and ensures the timely, appropriate evaluation of ED patients.

Preventing burnout among ED staff will be one of the greatest challenges facing hospitals over the next few decades. While a physician portal is by no means a complete solution for burnout, it does offer features that can provide critical support to a much larger physician satisfaction strategy.