Addressing the Issue of Physician Satisfaction
Over the past six years, the annual SUMC Summit for Clinical Excellence has focused on various aspects of quality patient care (hand-offs, patient-centric care, communication, and more). This year we took a look inward, recognizing that we can't provide the highest quality of care for others if we don't take care of ourselves.
Respect for People—Supporting our Clinicians was the theme of the 7th annual Summit for Clinical Excellence on November 13. This event and the response to it are strong indicators of an increasing awareness of the impact of the state of the provider—burnout, resilience, professional satisfaction, work-life integration, etc.— on our ultimate goals of high value and safe clinical care.
The keynote address by Dr. Bryan Sexton from the Duke Patient Safety Center highlighted that connection between caregiver and patient wellbeing and outlined ways in which caregivers can improve their own resilience. According to Dr. Sexton, "we are hard-wired as human beings to remember the negative" as a means of survival, especially when we are sleep-deprived and having a hard time forming new positive memories. Rumination, anxiety, and worry "will help us to survive, but not to thrive." Surprisingly, something as simple as reminding yourself each evening of three good things that happened to you that day has been shown to have pronounced and sustained positive effects.
Many participants at the Summit were moved by the comments of Norm Rizk, who briefly but very memorably sketched some of the challenges and rewards that come with dedicating one's life to clinical care. He mentioned the sacrifices we (and our families) have made during the course of our careers, and expressed very personal regrets that resonate with many of us about the amount of time he spent away from his growing children to be at work. He reminded us that the adage, 'absence makes the heart grow fonder,' is true until it's not true anymore.
Other speakers outlined ways in which process improvement work can and has improved clinician satisfaction both at SHC and at LPCH, even while increasing the efficiency of care. This supports the notion that process improvement should be viewed in part as a professional satisfaction initiative, not just a method to improve efficiency. Leaders from both hospitals described ways the institutions can support clinicians to get our work done, and clinicians described projects they have completed with hospital support that made it possible not just to get the work done, but to do it in ways that are efficient and satisfying for those on the front lines.
This shift in culture has been one of the goals of the Stanford Committee for Professional Satisfaction and Support (SCPSS, formerly the Wellness Committee). This effort recognizes the need for professional satisfaction and support, and the need to work together to make our lives better so we can make our patients lives better. This committee has made great strides in making resources available to physicians and students at Stanford. Check out the WellMD website. You may be surprised to see what resources exist to help us deal with fatigue, burnout and stress. And maybe tonight, think of three good things…
We send best wishes to everyone for Happy Holidays and a healthy and resilient New Year ahead.
To view photos from the Summit for Clinical Excellence, go to http://hundleyphoto.smugmug.com/Other/SCE/33578129_RhN9rZ#!i=2918107946&k=wMcPnrk and use the password: meeting.
By guest contributors
Ann Weinacker, MD, Chief of Staff, and Bryan Bohman, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer