Stop Physician Burnout - how to reach out to a colleague in distress

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

stop-physician-burnout-how-to-reach-out-to-a-colleague-in-distress-dike-drummond-quadruple-aim-burnout-video.jpgPhysician Burnout - how to reach out to a colleague in distress - [VIDEO TRAINING]

If you could save someone's life in a two minute conversation, would you speak up?

The situation I am talking about isn't even really a conversation most of the time. It is just you, caring enough to ask a question. If all it took was a question to save a person's life, would you ask it?

Would you ask even if it feels awkward, takes what feels like courage, might make them uncomfortable and you are not sure what to do if they reach back to you for support?

Do you  need support right away?

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About twice a year I get asked to train a group of physicians for the worst reason possible. They want to learn about burnout because there as been a suicide on their medical staff recently.

The people in the room who feel the worst about that are those who knew the doctor was in trouble and didn't reach out. They will take that pit of second guesses to their grave unfortunately.

We have an obligation to support our brothers and sisters in a time of need.

Just find a good time, take your "hat" off and ask the simplest of questions. Here's a video to show you how ...

First ... If you are concerned about them I believe you have an obligation to reach out for one simple reason. Your outreach could save their life.

Remember we are programmed to never show weakness or ask for help. We are also programmed to avoid colleagues who are clearly struggling. This means that an extreme sense of isolation is a common experience when you are burned out AND often the physician is actually the last one to recognize what is going on.

In order to connect with this person when you do reach out, I encourage you to take your doctor hat off. I mean reach up and mime that you are taking a hat of as you say, "I am taking my doctor hat off now ... this is just you and me, heart to heart, I have been watching you and I am concerned. How are you doing?"

To which they will almost certainly say, "I am fine, what are you talking about?" That is OK. It is most likely their programming talking here.

If you reach out, they will deny.
Don't let that stop you though.

Be persistent - without stalking them. Ask them how they are doing in exactly the same way every other week or so. Your message is simple - If/when you are ready to talk, I am ready to listen.

Watch the video to see exactly how to do this and rehearse along with me. 


Have you reached out to a colleague you suspected of physician burnout?
How did it go?

Tags: Physician Burnout