Today’s gastroenterology physicians face the daunting task of caring for patients daily and managing the collective mental wear associated with the profession. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, a new light was focused on the effects on healthcare professionals and mental health, primarily resulting from a sharp rise in burnout and the resulting exodus of providers from the field.
Managing your mental health ensures that you are appropriately prepared to provide care and that daily interactions with others, including staff, fellow physicians, and, most importantly, patients, remain positive. Failing to take care of yourself can lead to adverse outcomes and impressions, leading to a significant financial impact due to the loss of patients.
Mental Health Challenges
As mentioned above, the rapid rise of burnout among healthcare providers has ignited the field to urge providers to take appropriate steps to manage their mental health. Research has shown that struggles associated with mental health commonly lead to negative interactions with others, including coworkers and patients.
A February 2023 report from HealthDataManagement.com showed that from 2021 to 2022, 65% of surveyed physicians said they were experiencing burnout. Additionally, 35% of that group added that their burnout symptoms had “significantly increased” in 2022. Despite the official end of the COVID-19 pandemic on May 5th, the resulting stress associated with years of difficult situations and changes in lifestyle has left a considerable mark on the industry as the world continues to recover and return to normalcy.
The Patient Perspective
Interactions with patients occur daily and are a routine part of being a physician. Your attitude in the exam room can give patients confidence, knowledge, and reassurance that their health and well-being are your top priority.
However, physicians struggling with mental health may see a stark change in their attitudes and presentation toward outside groups. IScribeHealth.com outlines seven distinct impacts of physician burnout, including a shift in mentality inside the office that can lead to awkward situations involving patients.
“While being cynical can seem like merely an attitude problem, this sort of negativity to colleagues, sometimes about particular patients, can create awkwardness or conflict that disrupts the normally professional environment of a doctor’s office or emergency room,” the site says.
Walking into an exam room, patients expect empathy and insight. Changes in a physician’s approach because of mental health struggles can lead to a lack of trust or a perceived lack of compassion. As a result, patients may decide to leave negative reviews of their experience, driving other patients away in the process.
Increased Risk of Error
The depersonalization of care toward patients that results from a physician’s mental health struggles can lead to increased adverse surgical outcomes.
“Studies have found that ’the depersonalization dimension of physician burnout was associated with patient outcomes of lower satisfaction and longer post-discharge recovery time,’” iscribehealth.com states. “It’s clear in this instance that the attitude of physicians goes a long way when treating patients.”
Internal and external stressors can reduce surgical performance, increasing adverse outcomes and longer patient recovery times.
Take Care of Yourself
Physicians must take time for themselves to manage mental health and outside stressors. Healthy ways to do so include exercise, therapy, and spending time with friends and family.
These proactive steps benefit physicians and patients, resulting in improved outcomes and higher patient satisfaction scores.
SCA Health encourages all of our physician partners to take the time to manage their mental health and maintain a healthy mind and body.
This story was originally published in the October 2023 issue of the PE GI Journal by PE GI Solutions. PE GI Solutions is now a part of SCA Health. To read more from this and past issues of the journal, click here.