Dr. P was eager to sit down with her supervisor for the first time in four months. Lately, she was lucky if their monthly one-on-one meetings occurred once per quarter–something always seemed to come up that caused them to cancel or push it out. Everyone was so busy that no one had time for development meetings, or anything else for that matter. This was precisely what Dr. P was hoping to discuss today, and yet, she found herself sitting quietly as her manager outlined the various ways physicians would need to continue to “step up” for their patients and the practice. Dr. P wanted to take care of her patients, but she also knew her current workload was unsustainable. She thought this meeting would be the right place to initiate the conversation, and yet, it was clear her supervisor was not ready to hear it.
If Dr. P’s situation sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Joint research from MGMA and Jackson Physician Search shows burnout is still on the rise, and while administrators are aware that it’s a problem, they have yet to find an effective way to solve it. This may be due to the fact that the issues physicians face are complex and there is no easy solution. However, one notable point from the research is the importance physicians place on two-way communication with management. One might assume that the need to be heard would be simple for employers to meet, and yet, just one in four physicians in the study said two-way communication at their organization is “very good” or “good.” If you would like to see two-way communication improve at your organization, you may need to proactively initiate new processes to give you and your peers what you need.
Burnout Increasing But Better Communication Can Help
The comprehensive results of the aforementioned MGMA-JPS study are documented in the new whitepaper, Back from Burnout: Confronting the Post-Pandemic Physician Turnover Crisis. The study explores how both physicians and medical group administrators perceive the current state of physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and burnout. According to the findings, more physicians report feeling burned out in 2022 than in 2021, and among those who say they are burned out, most feel their burnout is worse than it was last year.
The rising statistics on burnout are bleak, however, the joint study also asked physicians to share what factors impact their job satisfaction. If administrators can improve in the areas most important to physicians, certainly this would positively impact burnout. So which factors do physicians say have the greatest impact on their job satisfaction? It may come as a surprise to some that the top factor was not compensation but two-way communication with management. Physicians want a relationship of trust, where they know how and when important decisions are being made and feel they have a voice in making them.
How to Improve Communication at Your Organization
Much has been written for healthcare leaders on what they can do to improve communication with physicians, but what can physicians do to proactively work towards the same goal? The following ideas are starting points to help you reach out to leadership and establish new processes and expectations that will improve communication at your organization.
Request regular one-on-one meetings with your manager. If regular meetings with your manager are not already on your calendar, it’s time to make this a priority. Most organizations recognize the need for monthly, one-on-one meetings, but all too often these are the first events to be rescheduled or canceled when conflicts arise. Be flexible when truly necessary, but make sure meetings are promptly rescheduled.
Bring an agenda to meetings with management. Make sure your one-on-one meetings are productive by bringing an agenda to the meeting. Your manager may or may not have specific items to discuss, but by bringing a written list, you are indicating that you too have issues you want to address. Bonus points if you also bring potential proposed solutions to any problems you bring to light.
Ask your manager to weigh in. Good managers will try to make themselves available and approachable to staff, so take advantage of those opportunities to make him or her aware of a specific issue you are dealing with and get an outside opinion. These more casual interactions can help your manager understand the issues you and your peers are facing and perhaps spark ideas on ways to provide more support.
Be an active participant in meetings and huddles. While you don’t need to bring a written agenda to every gathering, do be an active listener and speak up to share your thoughts and ideas. Ask questions when appropriate and provide your input when the opportunity is right.
Share successes and failures. If your manager has done a good job building an environment of trust, you will hopefully feel comfortable sharing both your wins and losses. This type of transparency is crucial for problem-solving and can help your manager better understand and empathize with your circumstances.
Speak as “I” not “we.” These proactive steps to improve communication will hopefully improve circumstances for your physician peers as well as for yourself. However, don’t make the mistake of speaking for the group unless you have been tasked to do so. In your discussions with management, make it clear that you represent yourself and your opinions only. This will prevent misunderstandings or confusion about how the group may or may not feel.
Start With Better Communication
The challenge of beating physician burnout doesn’t have an easy solution, however, improving communication between physicians and management is an important part of improving overall circumstances for physicians. Most employers are well aware of the burnout epidemic and are taking steps to mitigate the problem for physicians. Physicians can take a proactive role in working to solve the issue, and they may start with these steps to improve communication with management: prioritize one-on-one meetings, participate and ask questions, be transparent, share both good news and bad, and speak to your own opinions and circumstances, not the group’s. These actions can improve communication at your organization and ultimately serve to lessen burnout, not only for you but for your peers as well.
Are you searching for a physician job with an employer that prioritizes two-way communication? The Recruitment Team at Jackson Physician Search can help you find a job with an employer whose values align with yours. Reach out to a Jackson Physician Search Recruiter today or search physician jobs online now.
Nearly half of physicians in a recent study say their employers are the primary cause of their burnout. It’s time to have an honest conversation with your manager about the issues that you feel contribute to burnout and the potential ways your manager could solve or improve those issues.
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