Silly things Physician Leaders say about Physician Burnout - Part Two

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician-leadership-silly-things-leaders-say-stop-physician-burnout"Everything was O.K. around here until you showed up"

This is Part Two of a series of 
Silly Things Physician Leaders Sometimes Say

Someone in the senior leadership team will often aim that comment at you after the successful launch of your burnout prevention program. I consider it a healthy sign for your organization. Senior leaders do not always share my viewpoint. 

Here is the simple - and silly - thinking behind that statement:

  • Before your burnout prevention program launch no one talked about stress and burnout.
  • Now everyone is talking about it and offering suggestions for improvements. 
  • So it must be your fault, right?

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We both know this statement is both silly and completely false -- let's talk about how you might explain why.

If anyone ever says this to you, I want you to be ready to respond. CMOs have said this to me and a number of our Quadruple Aim Physician Leadership Retreat graduates -- and they could say it to you as well. Here's how I respond to them.

physician-leadership-physician-burnout-prevention-silly-things-leaders-sayIt's a Truth Outbreak - that's all

Let's face it, denial is a powerful coping mechanism and extremely common for leaders. As long as no one was talking about burnout in the C-suite, it didn't exist ... right? That is denial in its purest form. You are providing them with a solid Reality Check.

You didn't cause anything here except a truth outbreak. The conversation about stress and burnout was taboo until you came along. The burnout and stress were here before, we just denied their existence. No one offered suggestions before because they were pretty sure no one was listening.

Your burnout prevention program - and you telling your burnout story - gives everyone a strong signal that it is OK to start telling the truth.

Here's why this is a good sign 

The more quickly your providers start talking about burnout and what to do about it ... the healthier your culture. The more quickly they pick up this ball and run with it -- the more they trust you.

If they really didn't trust you, your doctors would keep their heads down and maintain their silence around the stress of working here until long after your program launch. 

The truth is:

  • Burnout IS real
  • Burnout is here right now, with over 50% of the doctors in any healthcare organization meeting diagnostic criteria
  • Your systems of patient and information flow are needlessly stressful
  • AND it has nothing to do with YOU starting a burnout prevention program
  • The doctors are talking now because they trust that you are starting a good faith effort to turn this all around.

Don't let them down!!!

Now that it is safe to tell the truth, we can start to deal with what is real and make honest plans to take better care of each other going forward. Yes?

Full Speed Ahead

When everyone starts talking about stress and burnout and pointing out the inefficiencies of the system ... TAP THAT ENERGY and put the pedal to the metal on your burnout prevention program.

If your providers are telling the truth and offering suggestions for improvement -- they are also watching to see if the leaders really mean it when they say , "we care about our people". 


Leadership is an Honor and a Calling

Leaders are in positions of great power and great responsibility. This is just a question of how much you care about your people and their patients.

If you care enough, you can make a HUGE POSITIVE DIFFERENCE.

  • Acknowledge the truth of the modern physician burnout epidemic
  • Build a better system of care and a more supportive culture
  • Get busy doing things that will make a difference for all your physicians and staff
  • Make your burnout prevention efforts a reason doctors stay in your organization and recommend it to their colleagues
  • Use these efforts to become top ranked in the outcomes that burnout prevents
    • Superior quality
    • Top notch patient and provider satisfaction and engagement
    • Even top flight financial performance 

NONE of that is possible if you quit before you start with a statement like:

"Everything was O.K. around here until you showed up"



  • What is your group doing to prevent physician burnout?
  • How is that going?
  • What is the change you would like to see to lower the stress in your work day?

Tags: prevent physician burnout, Physician Leadership