Doctors are feeling more valued, less burned out after COVID

Podcast: AMA, Sanford well-being leaders discuss how to support caregivers for better care

Doctors are feeling more valued, less burned out after COVID

Episode Transcript

Alan Helgeson (announcer):

“Reimagining Rural Health,” a podcast series brought to you by Sanford Health. In this series, we explore the challenges facing health care systems across the country from improving access to equitable care, building a sustainable workforce, and discovering innovative ways to deliver high-quality, low-cost services in rural and underserved populations. Each episode examines how Sanford Health and other health systems are advancing care for the unique communities they serve.

In this episode, Courtney Collen with Sanford Health News talks with Dr. Kevin Hopkins, senior physician advisor with the American Medical Association, and Sanford Health OB/GYN and leader in clinician well-being Dr. Heather Spies on the topic of well-being and resilience.

Courtney Collen (host):

I have Dr. Kevin Hopkins and Dr. Heather Spies joining me now. Thank you both for your time. Welcome.

Dr. Kevin Hopkins (guest):

Sure. Thanks for having us.

Courtney Collen:

What are the top three opportunities that you see when it comes to caring for our caregivers and building a resilient workforce and organization?

Dr. Kevin Hopkins:

I’m going to give you the answer from two different perspectives. I’m going to talk about the short term or short run. And then a little bit about the long run.

So I think from a short-term perspective, there are things that we can choose to do from an operation standpoint that would be impactful pretty quickly. One of those is probably engaging health system leaders in making the business case for caregiver well-being and making sure that our health system leaders understand the value proposition there. The second thing is reducing unnecessary or low-value work that doesn’t really bring value to the care we deliver to our patients or even to our health system. And then the third thing is delegating the valuable work that needs to happen across the capable team. So those are three things that we can choose to do that would have a significant impact right up front.

Thinking about the long game, longer-term things we need to look at, and we know this from research data, survey data: number one is addressing EHR (electronic health record) efficiency just to make it more efficient for users to use and a really valuable tool for patient care delivery. The second thing is addressing staffing, adequacy of staffing, the workforce shortage, obviously, that most health systems are experiencing. And the third is autonomy. Doctors want to be doctors and they want to be respected, and they want to have some degree of autonomy and freedom in things like their schedules and those sorts of things that we haven’t always been able to afford as much as we’d like.

Courtney Collen:

Thank you. Dr. Hopkins.

Dr. Spies, where have we made progress and where does work remain? How will this shape strategy and policy moving forward, would you say?

Dr. Heather Spies (guest):

Yeah. Thank you. I love everything that Dr. Hopkins said because we’ve really partnered with physicians like him who are leading the way in this work in the AMA and other health care organizations across the country, because, like he spoke of, we really need to prioritize the operational things that are affecting our clinicians and the ability they have to care for patients well.

And so the things that we have done is, number one, collaborate. You know, so collaborating with the people that we need to, to move the work forward. So for instance, how do we decrease those administrative burdens? How do we decrease the extra clicks in the EHR? And so not only are we collaborating externally with what our best practices and what ways can we make adjustments, but also internally, you know, from our clinician experience standpoint and our department, we are consistently meeting with Dr. (Roxana) Lupu and our MDIs (medical directors of informatics) to say, what progress have we made? And reducing these burdens, and what do we need to keep pushing for?

We also want to communicate consistently, right? So asking for feedback from our clinicians, what EHR burdens that we have reduced have really been helpful, and which ones are new that are now bothering you, or that haven’t been fixed yet that are building more than we realized. So really that collaborating and the communication piece, I think we’ve made big strides on and we’re making, and we’re seeing some improvement.

But then I think we also have to be sure that we’re communicating back and making people realize the things we have changed. Because sometimes we just have our head to the ground and we’re taking care of our patients, and we think, oh, yeah, I haven’t noticed that BPA alert as much as I did. So I think it’s just, we’re just so busy. We’re so overburdened sometimes that just continuing to cheer each other on and push each other forward with the work. And we’re making great strides, but we’re never going to be happy because we want to keep making sure that we’re taking care of each other and doing the best we can in this.

Courtney Collen:

Can you talk about the national landscape and the AMA’s efforts to support physician well-being?

Dr. Kevin Hopkins:

Sure. Yeah. I’d be glad to. I’ll share just a little bit of what I’m going to share this afternoon in our breakout session, the 2023 AMA organizational biopsy national report that gives sort of a high-level summary of the state of burnout and job stress in physicians across the U.S.

So currently, our report shows that the national burnout rate among physicians is at 48%. It’s significantly improved from a high of 63% back in Q3 of 2021. So all in all, that’s encouraging, but we also have to keep in perspective, it’s still about 30% higher than burnout levels in the normal population that aren’t physicians. So I think we’ve got to take those gains and trends. Within context from 2021 to 2023, overall job stress and burnout levels have declined, and overall job satisfaction has increased steadily. Those two things seem to be inversely proportionate. So as job satisfaction goes up, job stress, at least perceived job stress and symptoms of burnout go down.

The second trend that we’re seeing is a steady increase over the last two years in physicians feeling valued by the organization that they work for. Another inversely proportionate relationship is feeling valued and intent to leave. So as people feel more valued, they’re less likely to leave their current organization within the next two years. And so intent to leave has gone down as feeling valued goes up.

So that’s some of the trends that are happening on a national landscape perspective around burnout and well-being. We still have a lot of work to do. The AMA is, this is our mission. And so certainly there’s a lot that goes on around advocacy for policy change and redevelopment.

But there’s so much content that’s put out by our team in professional satisfaction and practice sustainability from our Steps Forward content, which are tools and modules to help people change the way they deliver care in a more patient-friendly and caregiver-friendly way. Debunking regulatory myths, things that people think are regulatory requirements that really aren’t. Research around EHR use metrics and how we can improve the efficiency of our EHR systems.

And then convening, bringing people together, national and local and regional conferences about how we can deliver care better and take better care of our physicians and other caregivers and health systems. So those are some of the things that the AMA is doing to help encourage the course that we’re on.

Courtney Collen:

Thank you so much for your insight there. Dr. Spies, we’ll wrap up with you here. What excites you the most about the future of well-being and resilience for the health care workforce? And feel free to chime in as well, Dr. Hopkins.

Dr. Heather Spies:

Oh, there’s so many things. I think that you know, over the five years or so that I’ve been really deeply involved in some of this work with clinician well-being is just to see the momentum that we’ve gained when you’re both locally in our regions, in our markets, when you’re at a national conference, to see that it’s actually being lifted to the top of priorities is so great. You know, a few years ago there were small little pockets of people maybe that were trying to push this work, and how can we make sure that the top executive level leaders understand the importance of it? And now, even today, in the beginning of a lot of our meetings, we are talking about it on a daily basis. And so people understand the importance of it.

And now that the momentum is really going, we’re going to start to see huge strides in it. We’re going to start to see changes and unique ideas that we can do to make our clinicians’ lives better. I really am hopeful that over the next few years, we’re going to see people really finding their joy in medicine again, so much more in how they can care for their patients and not feel burnt out day in, day out. And we’re going to just keep making strides. So I’m really excited.

Dr. Kevin Hopkins:

Yeah. I agree. Heather, what we’ve heard from your Sanford leaders, they’re saying the right things. You know, not only is there an awareness of this as a priority, there’s also engagement around it and really making it an organizational and system priority. We know that if we take better care of our people, our people will take better care of patients, we’ll take better care of the organization. And the CEO at my organization talks about treating each other and our patients as family and the organization as our home. But I think if we really do that and do that with consistency, we can’t go wrong.

Courtney Collen:

Dr. Hopkins, Dr. Spies, thank you so much for your time and for all that you do.

Dr. Heather Spies:

Thank you so much.

Dr. Kevin Hopkins:


Alan Helgeson:

You’ve been listening to “Reimagining Rural Health,” a podcast series brought to you by Sanford Health. Hear more episodes in this series or other Sanford Health series on Apple, Spotify, and

Get more episodes in this series

Posted In Corporate Services & Administration, Leadership in Health Care, News, Physicians and APPs