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National Meeting Kicks off with Sobering Session on High Stakes Physician Burnout

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

The American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition held its annual “Peds 21” pre-conference panel and keynote on physician wellness and burnout.

Left to right: Drs. Serwint, Schonfeld, Bernstein, McClafferty. (Source: AAP via twitter)

Titled “Pediatricians Leading Change in Physician Health and Wellness,” the session was keynoted by Dr. Janet Serwint, MD, FAAP and panelists included:

  • Hillary McClafferty, MD, FAAP, Director Pediatric Integrative Medicine in Residency, University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

  • David Schonfeld, MD, FAAP, Director, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Doximity asked some of the 700 attendees in Chicago about their reactions after the session:

Dr. Jeffrey W. Britton, MD, FAAP, an active “tweetiatrician” (@sftydc), thinks that the burnout issue affects all career levels:

As a general pediatrician working in a large multi specialty group, involved with clinic management, I have had growing concern about the impact of physician burnout among my colleagues. The stresses of decreased payment per work RVU, coupled with the increased stress of EMR documentation, prior authorization paperwork, and patient experience demands, has led to increasing signs of burnout among many of my colleagues. Today’s session provided me a foundation for trying to lead change within my organization. Individual strategies, like mindfulness, are important — but organizational change must also take place in order for us to fully address this growing crisis.

So far most of the research on this topic has been within the training of residents. However, the problem of burnout is seen across all aspects of medicine — academic, non-academic, large clinic, small clinic. We must find approaches to address the problem across the spectrum. One size does not fit all, so our solutions will need to be flexible and will vary from organization to organization, and from physician to physician. I am glad the issue is now finally on the table, as bringing it out in the open and discussing it is the first step toward a solution.

Dr. Harrietta Christodoulos, DO, MS, a pediatric hospitalist from Novi, MI felt inspired and reflected on the importance of debriefing:

I did attend the Peds 21 session on wellness and was pleasantly surprised at how interesting it was. I found the speakers to be well rounded and backed up their comments with relevant studies and evidence ( lots of data). I personally felt less alone in the struggles we face as physicians on a day to day basis — — with difficult cases, and death. In fact, in the last 2 weeks, I was involved in a pediatric code in our ED where a 2 week old died. So many of the staff and physicians were affected — and It is so important to offer debriefings after a traumatic event so that we can continue to work and be compassionate physicians.

The speakers were also inspiring offering tools and suggestions and ways we can implement change in our own lives and possibly our own department/ and hospital. Really a great topic and session.

This was a really important session. It is a topic that we see in our patients and in ourselves, and there is a stigma even now at the best and most supportive institutions.

Dr. Mary Kathleen DiTursi, MD, a pediatrician from Troy, NY noted the importance of the session but underscored the stark contrast to prior years.

I do not think this was the right topic for Peds21. I am used to coming out of Peds21 invigorated with an armload of tools to make changes in my practice. This year was very different. I came out of the session sober and determined to make changes for my staff, but also drained. I commented to my husband that I was really glad that he had come to the conference with us this year, and with the kids. I needed the family support to decompress after such an intense session. It was a lot like re-living many of the stressors I had endured in residency and even day-to-day in my own practice.

In all, I’m glad they did it. I wish it hadn’t been preaching to the choir and I wish it hadn’t been Peds21. But I’m glad they did it.

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