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Physician burnout: Mayo researchers identify effective interventions

October 04, 2016

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- After highlighting that more than half of American physicians are experiencing burnout, Mayo Clinic researchers now have identified some solutions that are being used to prevent or lessen burnout around the world. The findings show that some of the approaches being used are effective and making a difference. The article appears in the journal The Lancet.

The researchers identified more than 2,600 research articles that dealt with outcomes and approaches to physician burnout. They found 15 randomized clinical trials and 37 cohort studies that collectively included more than 3,600 physicians.

"We conducted an extensive search and compared the effectiveness of interventions across a range of burnout outcomes," says lead author Colin West, M.D., Ph.D. "It's clear that both individual strategies and structured organizational approaches are effective in achieving clinically meaningful reductions in burnout."

Effective individual-focused strategies include mindfulness training, stress management training and small group sessions. Organizational changes that seem to work include limiting physician duty hours and a range of care delivery process changes in hospitals and clinics.

Mayo Clinic has been using some of these approaches with noticeable effects, including group interaction sessions in which the institution provides a designated lunch gathering monthly for breakout groups of physicians, so they can talk confidentially about their experiences with each other according to a structured curriculum.

The investigators say more research is needed as most published data come from observational studies and that validation of many of the solutions still is needed. In addition, the effect of combinations of interventions and their long-term benefits should be the focus of additional study.
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Co-authors of the article are Liselotte Dyrbye, M.D., Tait Shanafelt, M.D. and Patricia Erwin, M.L.S. The research was supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Research Institute and Mayo Clinic.

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