Burnout among doctors can be tackled

Mindfulness is one strategy that works
  • Deborah Condon

It is possible to tackle burnout among doctors, a new study has found.

Burnout is characterised by emotional exhaustion, loss of purpose and de-personalisation - treating people as if they are objects. It can lead to personal issues such as depression and alcohol abuse, but may also impact patient care. It can also result in increased absenteeism and people leaving their jobs at an earlier stage than originally planned.

US researchers set out to identify some solutions to burnout after research suggested that over half of doctors in the US are affected.

They analysed more than 2,600 research articles, 37 studies and 15 clinical trials, which dealt with outcomes and approaches to burnout among thousands of doctors.

"We conducted an extensive search and compared the effectiveness of interventions across a range of burnout outcomes. It's clear that both individual strategies and structured organisational approaches are effective in achieving clinically meaningful reductions in burnout," commented the study's lead author, Dr Colin West, of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Effective strategies aimed at individuals included stress management, mindfulness training and small group sessions.

Strategies at an organisational level that appeared to work included limiting a doctor's hours on duty.

The Mayo Clinic has introduced some of these approaches and the effects have been very positive, the researchers noted. For example, it now holds group sessions every month to allow doctors to speak confidentially about their experiences with each other.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, The Lancet.


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