In response to alarming evidence of high rates of depression and suicide among U.S. health care workers, the National Academy of Medicine is launching a wide-ranging “action collaborative” of multiple organizations to promote clinician well-being and resilience. To date, more than 20 professional and educational organizations have committed to the NAM-led initiative, which will identify priorities and collective efforts to advance evidence-based solutions and promote multidisciplinary approaches that will reverse the trends in clinician stress and ultimately improve patient care and outcomes.
“It’s disturbing that so many clinicians are stressed out and overwhelmed, but even more so when we consider the impact on patients and society,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau, chair of the initiative. “Addressing this problem will require individual, organizational, and systems-level reform. The NAM is committed to leading this collaborative effort in finding workable solutions that will ultimately benefit us all.”
Clinician burnout has been linked to increased medical errors and patient dissatisfaction, and recent research has shown that declines in the well-being of health care professionals cut across all ages, stages, and career paths – from trainees to experienced practitioners. As many as 400 physicians commit suicide each year, double the suicide rate of the general U.S. population, according to one study. A survey of more than 6,000 physicians conducted over a three-year period found that they have twice the risk of burnout compared with other professions. And the problem is not unique to physicians – nurses and other clinicians also report high rates of dissatisfaction and stress. For example, a 2007 study found that 24 percent of intensive care nurses and 14 percent of general nurses tested positive for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Some organizations have begun work to address clinician burnout on their own, but we know that this is a complex problem that no single solution is going to fix,” said co-chair of the initiative Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. “The NAM’s platform will unite stakeholders from across the country and bring a much-needed multifaceted approach to clinician well-being.”
“We need to better understand the causes of clinician burnout and depression and advance evidence-based solutions that reverse these troubling trends,” added co-chair Thomas J. Nasca, chief executive officer of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and of ACGME International. “The ACGME has been fully engaged in this issue and we look forward to collaborating with the NAM to find effective solutions.”
“The very people who have devoted their lives to keeping others healthy are at great risk of suffering from work-induced burnout,” said James L. Madara, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Medical Association, a sponsor of the initiative. “Physician well-being must be a top priority in national discussions on patient care.”
The collaborative will begin work in January 2017; public workshops and meetings will be scheduled throughout the year. For more information or to register to receive updates, visit https://nam.edu/initiatives/clinician-resilience-and-well-being.
Sponsors currently include the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, American Board of Internal Medicine and the ABIM Foundation, American Board of Medical Specialties, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Association of American Medical Colleges, Council of Medical Specialty Societies, CRICO, Federation of State Medical Boards, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine and Association of Academic Chairs of Emergency Medicine, Society of Neurological Surgeons, and UAB Medicine.