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    5 ways to improve physician mental health

    Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Rebekah Bernard, MD, a family physician at Gulf Coast Direct Primary Care in Fort Myers, Florida. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Medical Economics or UBM Medica.


    The practice of medicine in our current healthcare system is making physicians sick, with levels of burnout and mental strain increasing across every specialty. 


    RELATED READING: To give care to others, physicians shouldn't be afraid to get help


    Burnout has become so bad that physicians are increasingly leaving the workforce, with the 2016 Physicians Foundation Report reporting that 49% of doctors were actively making plans to decrease patient care either by entering early retirement, changing to a nonclinical role or switching to a lower volume concierge-type practice.”[1] Even more sadly, about 400 physicians per year stop seeing patients for the most tragic of cause: because they take their own lives.

    The good news is that there are steps that physicians can take to improve our well-being. One of the best ways to start the process of healing is through work with a psychologist.Dr. Bernard

    According to Steve Cohen, PsyD, it’s best to use psychology “as a preventive or prophylactic measure.  By the time you feel overwhelmed and on edge, you are probably entering crisis or burnout mode.  Working with a psychologist before you feel lost or overwhelmed can help you to avoid conflict and even medical errors due to exhaustion and frustration.”

    And while psychology can help us to cope with our own emotional stressors, there are other less obvious benefits that doctors can gain which will help to improve our day-to-day lives.

    1.      Improve relationships. I love to say: “The people who really need a psychologist usually won’t go. That’s why the rest of us have to.” I really believe this to be true. There are so many people that we encounter every day who are desperately in need of professional help, but they simply lack the insight or the inclination necessary to take that step. These people are often incredibly challenging to work or live with. A psychologist can teach us ways to interact more effectively with difficult people in our lives, or how to best communicate based on different personality types. Psychology can also help us decide when it’s time to end emotionally harmful and toxic relationships.


    POPULAR ON OUR SITE: Top 11 gripes physicians have with patients


    2.     Get better results for your patients. We often have a multitude of issues to address in a short amount of time in our office. Psychology can teach effective ways to help patients prioritize their problems, help us to communicate our message more clearly and allow us to understand the barriers to compliance. Psychology can also help us to learn to acknowledge and process the negative emotions that occur every day in our job—such as frustration and anger that certain patient types can elicit in us (“transference”), or sadness and hurt that comes from being the bearer of bad news.  

    Next: Avoiding the stigma of seeking care

    Rebekah Bernard MD
    Dr Bernard was a National Health Care Scholar and served at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Immokalee, Florida for six years ...


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    • Anonymous
      Ugh! In any other field, the advice would be: "Quit!". Why do we do what we do then need to go get psychological help for it. That's freaking mental! No one gives a damn about doctors, and the ABIM, ACP, AMA, AAFP, and ABFM, are all of the sudden, worried. They helped cause this. If you do not work at least 35 hours a week in clinical medicine (or 50-60 like many of us) I don't want your opinion.
    • [email protected]
      Cool Hand Luke Remember that scene between Luke and the Captain when after he hits Luke hard enough to knock him down the captain says, "What we got here is...failure to communicate". After receiving a letter from CMS that began "Dear doctor, you have qualified for a 1.5 percent reduction in CMS reimbursements because of your failure... After receiving another letter this past week that began in much the same way but stated that now you have qualified for a 2 percent reduction in your CMS reimbursements for 2018 beginning on January 1, 2018 until and including December 31, 2018 because of your failure... In William Shakespeare's famous and immortal play Julius Caesar Roman senator Cassius replies to Brutus saying "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves , that we are underlings". As in other human endeavors, we have allowed ourselves to be kowtowed repeatedly by a government whose desire is to control each and every one of us both patient and physician while they enjoy the spoils of victory for the rest of their natural lives and yet it is we who are driven to seek psychiatric care and psychological counseling for the difficulties we have adapting to this BRAVE NEW WORLD with the realization that the worst is yet to come. Ben Franklin so acerbically commented during the deliberations before the Declaration of Independence was adopted, If we don't hang together we will surely hang separately. The government will come after doctors one at a time until there are none left to make a difference anywhere in medicine

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