Physician burnout is a real issue in Canada. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) suggests that 54 percent of Canadian physicians have symptoms of burnout. There is a multitude of theories about the exact causes of this fatigue; contributing factors include work overload, tension with policymakers, and a loss of community. Some points, like political choices, are beyond a physician’s control, yet there is one vital aspect of your daily work life that is in your control and can reduce any overload a doctor may feel: leadership.
What do you tell your patients most often? It probably goes something like this, “please eat right, exercise regularly, and take time for yourself.” Now, how often do you follow that advice yourself? Probably not as much as you should. It is with that pertinent information in mind that The Happy MD created the following tools to lessen your workload, get home sooner, and prevent physician burnout.
According to the article by Dr. Dike Drummond, a key to preventing burnout is in the simple leadership skills performed intentionally every day. Physicians carry too much of the workload on their backs, failing to capitalize on opportunities to delegate work to foster a real environment of team-based care. That’s why Dr. Drummond developed nine areas of a Physician’s New Activities of Daily Leadership. It’s a way to lead your teams efficiently, in spite of the four main character traits that work most doctors fall under:
- Superhero – you take on everything because if you didn’t, you think people would see you as a failure
- Lone Ranger – if you want a job done right, it’s on you.
- Workaholic – the only solution to a problem, is work, work and more work.
- Perfectionist – anything less than perfect is a failure.
These traits have been ingrained in you since medical school. They also work against you sharing the workload with your team. By practicing the following leadership traits, you can become a better leader and better doctor to your patients. There is a lot of information to process. Today we will break down four aspects of daily leadership that you can implement (stay tuned for Part 2). And if you think you can only manage one, well, #1 is the most important.
1) A Well Run Team Huddle At Least Once In Every Practice Day
As we mentioned above, if you can only do one thing on this list, this is the one to start immediately. Ideally, you and your team should huddle immediately before any block of patient care visits, like first thing in the morning. If it feels like a burden, keep in mind that for every minute you invest in a quality team huddle, you will most likely save a minimum of five on your workday. Huddles provide an opportunity to anticipate patient needs and prepare staffing and logistical matters, so the day runs more smoothly. Over time, they can serve as a platform for additional practice improvement, and role expansion.
- Last about five to 15 minutes, maximum
- Start at a consistent time that integrates smoothly into the practice’s workflow
- Include a check-in at the beginning of the huddle to get everyone on the same page
- Give a shout-out to a teammate or tell a story about exceptional care provided to a patient.
- Clinic leaders should model being on-time, engaged and prepared.
2) Look for Opportunities to Say Thank You – Early And Often
Saying thank you to employees is an effective way to improve employee engagement. People thrive at work when they know their contributions are meaningful. Letting people know how their work matters keeps the people around you engaged and excited about their work. Expressing gratitude isn’t just good for the people you’re thanking. Gratitude is good for you too, as people who say thank you are happier.
3) Look For Opportunities To Ask A Question Rather Than Give An Order
People quickly tire of taking orders. That’s why top leaders give their people ownership. They get out of the way, turning workers loose to explore, test, discover, and interpret. A leader’s role is to ask questions and guide people toward solving issues themselves. If you give orders and answer questions all the time, you will be making a team that is more dependent on you and guaranteeing more interruptions in the future. As well, some team members will ask questions just to get attention. If you communicate with them on your terms, they may not pester you with as many questions. Good responses to questions include, “What do you think will work”, and “If you don’t figure it out, what’s the worst thing that can happen?” They may figure out that it’s not a problem at all!
4) Delegate with Some Elegance and Grace
When delegating work, give the person a whole task to do. Employees are more effective when they feel part of something that is bigger than themselves. By giving them the whole and complete picture, you ensure that they feel as if they are a part of the whole initiative. Do not just dump on people and walk away. Take the time and tell them what you want. Follow up with them and tweak as necessary, using their ideas as well as yours.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
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