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4 Research-Backed Methods for Preventing Burnout in Healthcare

As researchers investigate the causes, effects and prevention of physician burnout, one thing is clear: the prevalence of burnout makes it impossible to ignore. “In 2022, 46% of health workers reported feeling burned out often or very often,” according to the CDC. The factors leading to burnout are complex but chronic stress caused or exacerbated by a work environment that is both emotionally demanding and lacking adequate resources is generally to blame.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory™, used by researchers and healthcare organizations, measures three distinct areas to quantify burnout:

  1. Emotional exhaustion,
  2. Depersonalization, and
  3. A sense of reduced personal accomplishment.

Using this scale, researchers have collected and analyzed data on provider burnout to attempt to identify concrete methods for preventing burnout in healthcare. The good news for physicians, other healthcare workers and their patients? This research gives us insight into how organizations and individuals can promote physician wellness and mitigate burnout.

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1. Organizational Support

While healthcare workers can—and should—take care of their mental well-being to the best of their abilities, the burnout prevention methods with the most impact are organization-directed, not physician-led. The culture of a healthcare organization plays a big role in how well its employees manage the inherent stress of their jobs. Scheduling, pay, regulations, evaluation measures and autonomy all impact how employees feel about their employer as well as their work-life balance. Together, these elements can significantly impact healthcare workers’ well-being—for better or worse.

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2. Teamwork and Peer Support

While employers can facilitate teamwork and peer support, this burnout prevention method can also be implemented by employees without requiring greater organizational changes. Strategies as simple as daily team meetings can “reduce burnout and improve morale.” Quality teamwork, unlike other burnout mitigation techniques, was found to address all three elements of burnout.

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3. Personal Resources

Personal resources, including mindfulness, resilience and self-compassion, protect providers from burnout. These strengths allow physicians and other healthcare workers to better “cope with adverse emotional events,” reducing stress, increasing well-being and improving relationships with patients. Resilience and compassion for oneself also improve providers’ ability to cope with the harsh realities of their jobs, reducing the likelihood of burnout.

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4. Creative Arts Therapy

Creative arts therapy, which encompasses techniques like visual arts, poetry and dance, is a therapeutic intervention used in the treatment of anxiety and depression, dementia, learning disabilities, eating disorders, grief and more. The benefits of this therapy as a treatment for healthcare provider burnout are not as well documented as other methods for preventing burnout. However, creative arts therapy may improve related mental health challenges physicians face.

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