Dr. Doug Flora, a successful oncologist, husband and father, describes his life as “professionally successful, but time-bankrupt.”
For 19 years, his personal life, needs and responsibilities have taken a backseat to patients. Hence, his modus operandi: “Ignore everything but work.”
“I’m at an 80-hour-a-week job that I have to fit into 60 hours, so that’s my traditional default,” he said.
Unfortunately, Dr. Flora’s story isn’t unique. He’s one of the millions of physicians struggling to achieve a balance between work and life. And this number is on the rise. Case in point — physician burnout has officially been deemed a public health crisis associated with lower quality patient care and increased medical errors, resulting in less favorable medical outcomes for patients.
Burnout Affects More Than Half of Practicing Physicians
Dr. Flora relayed that even simple things like buying a birthday present for his wife have proven to be overwhelming.
“I deeply love my wife, but I don’t have time to get her the gift she deserves,” Dr. Flora said. “My choice is to see the dying cancer patient or get the gift for my wife, and my wife always loses.”
Doctors have a long-standing tradition of sacrificing parts of their personal lives for their patients, if not forgoing one altogether. The tremendous social, economic and financial changes our culture has undergone has radically shifted the physician workforce. Today, most physicians don’t have the luxury of the personal support systems of the past: traditional stay-at-home spouses, dedicated full-time assistants, live-in nannies, etc. Without these systems in place, physicians are asked to sacrifice their personal life altogether. But this isn’t the only impossible choice physicians have to make.
Dr. Simon Talbot and Dr. Wendy Dean claim physicians aren’t burning out; they’re actually suffering from “moral injury”, an unintended result of a business-oriented, profit-driven health care environment in which physicians are committed to competing allegiances that frequently undermine their patients’ best interests.
“Physicians are smart, tough, durable, resourceful people. If there was a way to MacGyver themselves out of this situation by working harder, smarter, or differently, they would have done it already.“
– Talbot and Dean
How Healthcare Organizations Can Help Physicians Take Their Personal Lives Back
Healthcare organizations facing this national epidemic doubt their ability to affect change. During a time of limited resources and competing priorities, what is the business case to address physician burnout? Moreover, if an organization decides to take up this mantle, do they have the financial resources to create meaningful change?
Dr. Flora seems to think so. Last year his organization incorporated a new benefit, physician concierge services, at a fraction of the cost of turnover – which is primarily driven by burnout.
This year Dr. Flora’s wife finally received the gift she deserves!
“Veronica, our concierge, spent at least half of the day sourcing everything and putting it all together. She went above and beyond. Every detail was taken care of,” Dr. Flora said.
Dr. Flora described the BEST concierge team as a “close colleague that is imminently available to make my life manageable.”
It’s a whole new world for Dr. Flora since the BEST team arrived.
“In my new life, I have a concierge to take care of the things I used to sacrifice in my personal life, and my life is better for it.”