University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Perception of Burnout and Its Impact on Academic Hospitalists During COVID-19 and Institutional Strategies to Combat Burnout and Improve Wellness

Parsia Vazirnia, BS; Marie Luebke, MHS; Mohamed T. Abdelrahim, MA; Komal Khoja, BA; Trisha Jethwa, MD; Sanjay Bhandari, MD; Hammad Muhammad, MD; Brian Quinn, MD; Pinky Jha, MD, MPH

WMJ. 2023;122(5):394-398

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Introduction: Physician burnout has been alarmingly high, particularly among general internal medicine, which displays some of the highest rates. A recent study of academic hospitalists reported a higher level of burnout (62%) than the rates found in similar studies, but with agreement about factors leading to burnout, consequences of burnout, and importance of steps to prevent burnout. This study seeks to expand upon these results by investigating the impact of COVID-19 on burnout among hospitalists and uncovering the perspectives of frontline clinicians to formulate effective mitigation strategies.

Methods: Academic hospitalists were recruited to participate in a series of focus group interviews. The questions focused on contributors to burnout, the impact of COVID-19, and strategies to improve wellness and reduce burnout. The focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded for emergent themes using Taguette, an open-source qualitative data analysis software.

Results: Burnout-inducing themes included workload, bureaucratic hurdles, and lack of control. COVID-19-specific themes included fear of exposing family and social isolation. The most common mitigation strategy was to increase social interactions to foster a sense of community. Additional solutions included adhering to a census cap of patients, streamlining clinical work, and providing avenues for two-way communication between leadership and clinicians to share concerns and elicit feedback.

Conclusions: Streamlining clinical work allows more time for patient care. Enhancing community and fostering collaboration in decision-making allows clinicians to feel more empowered. A crucial first step to combat burnout is to encourage a work environment that values clinician well-being and proactively works to increase job satisfaction.

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Vazirnia, Luebke, Abdelrahim, Khoja, Jethwa, Bhandari, Muhammad, Quinn, Jha).
Corresponding Author: Parsia Vazirnia, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 W Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226; email; ORCID ID 0000-0003-2546-834X
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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