Combating Physician Burnout with Locum Tenens
Physician burnout remains a persistent issue and healthcare providers are feeling the urgency to establish counteractive initiatives. If the medical industry doesn’t properly combat this crisis soon, we could face a bleak landscape in the future with fewer physicians, increasing medical errors, and low-quality outcomes.
How did we get here?
The core job function of a physician is inherently stressful. They care for injured, scared, and sometimes dying human beings. But they chose their career to make a difference in the world by helping others. What many didn’t realize were the additional stresses of the profession, outside of patient care.
Being a physician in today’s world requires much more time spent on administrative tasks than in the past. With the rise of electronic health record (EHR) systems, physicians are buried in a chart when they could be spending time with a patient. A 2018 study showed that 70% of physicians spend 10 or more hours per week solely on paperwork and administration, some of them noting upwards of 20 or more hours. In addition to stress caused by the recent increase in administrative tasks, physicians also deal with leadership issues, irregular scheduling/on-call rotations, and the politics of the practice, hospital or health system.
Where do we go now?
We need to care for physician health as much as we do for patient health. This requires system-wide strategies for measuring and confronting burnout from the top down. Leadership teams must create avenues to communicate openly with their physicians about concerns and priorities. Establishing this transparency is essential to discovering what’s causing burnout on an individual and organizational level and how to stop it.
If your organization has been experiencing burnout and is ready to begin its physician wellness strategy, locum tenens may be a valuable catalyst.
Locum tenens is a Latin phrase that means, “to hold the place of; to substitute for.” In healthcare, locum tenens refers to physicians and other medical professionals who travel to organizations in need of temporary staff. They are hired by contract and can work up to 60 days per assignment – or longer with special allowances.
Here are a few examples of when locum tenens physicians can provide support to alleviate burnout:
- If any of your physicians are feeling burned out and need to take a leave of absence to rest
- If a physician is going on vacation or a sabbatical for an extended period of time
- If a physician takes maternity/paternity leave for the birth/adoption of a child
- If a physician takes time off for an injury or personal medical procedure
- If there are peak seasons for your organization with prolonged spikes in appointments
- If a physician leaves for another practice or retires and you need someone to fill in while you search for a permanent replacement
Locum tenens provides your organization backup, so you’re not understaffed and overworking employees to the point of burnout. An inadequate number of physicians is a recipe for poor physician health and patient experience. Consider the long-term benefit of hiring temporary assistance in contrast to other resource-intensive initiatives to address widespread physician burnout within your organization.
Like any major decision-making process, it’s best that you do your research before diving into locum tenens staffing solutions. While a one-size-fits all approach may work in some cases, there are many locum tenens companies that offer customizable options to meet the needs of your organization. In addition, with a quick search you can find many helpful online resources to explore your options and find the best fit for your organization.
Although physician burnout is a complicated, multi-faceted issue with no single solution, locum tenens is an effective mitigation tool for your ongoing physician health strategy. Happy physicians lead to healthy patients.