July 26, 2017

Physicians’ well-being task force distributes two-question survey

The Vanderbilt Task Force for Empowerment and Well-Being, a group formed earlier this year to investigate and implement ways to prevent burnout among physicians, will be using an online tool to gather information in the next few weeks to help it with its work.

An email containing a link to the tool was sent earlier this week to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) physicians. Using the tool consists of providing some demographic data and answering two questions. By combining some department/division and age groups together, the results will have no identifying information and no data are analyzed that have fewer than five people in a group.

The taskforce was appointed by Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of the School of Medicine, and C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer. The 15-member group is co-chaired by Reid Thompson, M.D., William F. Meacham Professor of Neurological Surgery, and Mary Yarbrough, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Clinical Medicine and executive director of Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness.

“We hope that physicians will be willing to take a little time and use this data-gathering tool to help us understand the challenges they face,” Yarbrough said.

“We define well-being as ‘a state characterized by physical and mental health, a sense of satisfaction, and empowerment to redefine our environment and create meaningful relationships with others,’” she said. “We know that strengthening well-being among individuals strengthens all of us, and Vanderbilt as an institution.”

Thompson noted that the perception is often that the sources of burnout are intensifying.

“It is recognized by Medical Center leadership that physicians are under increasingly undue stress, and there are many reasons for that — the shifting health care landscape, government involvement in health care, increasing rules and regulations that erode our ability to spend time doing things we would prefer to do, like spending time focused on our patients,” he said. “There’s a sense that the pace of these stressors is at an all-time high and getting worse.

“When you’re in the business of health care for patients, shouldn’t you also be in the business of health care for the providers?”

The multidisciplinary group will determine the status of this issue at VUMC, examine how other medical groups around the country address physician burnout, and draft an action plan for addressing this concern, said Yarbrough. Findings and recommendations will be presented to VUMC leadership in 12 months.

“Although we are initially focusing on physicians, we hope to learn from this smaller group to expand to all providers,” Yarbrough said.