Physician Group Culture Trumps Burnout, Maintains Physician Autonomy

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician culture physician burnout healthcare organization culture optYour Group's Culture is Key to Maintaining Physician Autonomy and Preventing Physician Burnout

Culture ... What Culture?

The basic challenge is this ...

... most physician groups/departments have never created a Conscious Culture that defines who you are and how you support each other.

This is one of the Key Blind Spots of our current Physician Leadership Vacuum.

A consciously created, supportive Physician Culture is hugely important for all doctors now and in the rapidly changing healthcare environment that is staring us all in the face. Yet the entire concept of a cohesive Physician Culture is completely absent in 85% of the healthcare organizations I interact with across the country.

What about your group/organization? 
Does the Culture of your group/department support you in building a healthy practice or actually get in your way?


How would you describe the culture of your group/department in a single sentence?

Look at the sentence ...
is that the kind of group/department you want to work in/for?

- Not having a Conscious Culture ... is a Culture
- Not having a Conscious Culture ... increases your stress levels and burnout rates
- Not having a Conscious Culture ... allows you to be ordered around by non-physician administrators

If your group is just a bunch of doctors running on their own gerbil wheels in their own offices who happen to share a call schedule and a compensation formula and nothing else ... your burnout rates are very high right now and your future is uncertain.

Unfortunately this is the most common "Culture" in healthcare.

“For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”
~ Tony Hsieh, CEO

The Way Forward:

Your Culture will make or break your group in the years ahead. I have already written about Culture as one of the top three reasons employed physicians quit their jobs and move on.

A supportive culture is one of the keys to the following three benefits ...

Lowering your Burnout Risk
When we your personal energy is tapped out, you can lean on a supportive group culture to recover from this temporary dip and prevent the chronic effects of the downward spiral of physician burnout.

Developing positive and supportive relationships with your peers/colleagues
Groups/Departments with supportive cultures meet more frequently, know each others significant others and children and "have each other's back" in times of stress. You have to want this kind of Culture and nuture it. It does not happen spontaneously.

Maintaining control over your patient and payor mix
With a supportive and cohesive group/department culture, you will make decisions more easily, with more trust and unanimity. You will be able to go toe to toe with other parties (administration, payors, government) to defend your ideal patient/payor mix in the important negotiations ahead.

Getting Started

1) Write down your own Ideal Group/Department Culture Description

2) Engage your colleagues in hallway discussions about your Culture.
Ask them how they would describe your culture.
Ask them what they would like your culture to be in an ideal world.
Show them your description.
Begin this all important conversation one partner at a time and see what traction you get. 

If you never see your partners or colleagues in the course of a normal work day ... that is a facet of your current Culture. Do you want to change that too?

NOTE: If you find you are the only one interested in this conversation and it is important to you, it may be time to start looking for another job 

3) Bring up Culture and its benefits in your current meetings
If you don't have regular meetings now ... you are just a bunch of gerbils on wheels focused on production and nothing else. 

4) Your discussions about Culture may quickly bring to light that your Department or Group has never held a Strategic Planning Retreat ... and does not have a clear Mission, Vision or Values.

If you don't have agreement on your own Mission, Vision and values - then you have no group or department identity. You are a "herd of cats" just waiting for someone else (administration, payors, government) to tell you what to do.

5) Remember this is a Process, be superbly patient and tenaciously persistent.
Building Consensus around your Ideal Culture and creating and maintaining this supportive Culture in your group are Processes.

- They take time and patience to develop

- And diligence and persistence to maintain.

Every ounce of your efforts will be worth it.

Contact me directly if you would like to discuss specific steps in your personal situation. 

Recommended Reading: "Tribal Leadership" - Dave Logan et al.


- How would you describe your group's culture?
- What would you like it to be?
- How important do you feel physician culture is in these days of rapid changes in healthcare? 

Tags: Dike Drummond MD, Physician Burnout