ACC Leaders Address the Realities of Clinician Burnout at ESC Congress 2019

Cardiology Magazine Image ACC Immediate Past President C. Michael Valentine, MD, MACC

The concept of burnout is defined as a response to work-related stress that often encompasses emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and diminished personal accomplishment – it's also a reality for up to 40 percent of cardiovascular clinicians. A joint ACC session chaired by ACC President Richard J. Kovacs, MD, FACC, during ESC Congress 2019, explored the multiple consequences of burnout, the impacts on early career cardiologists, and ways for clinicians to find balance in the workplace.

Speaking to the consequences of burnout, ACC Vice President Athena Poppas, MD, FACC, highlighted a 2018 Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report showing cardiology with one of the higher rates of burnout and lowest happiness rates among health care specialties. At 17 percent, cardiologists were also the least likely of all medical specialties to seek professional help, instead turning to alcohol consumption, binge/unhealthy eating, self-isolation and even suicide.

In addition to personal well-being issues, patients and employers also suffer the consequences of burnout, said Poppas. For patients, these consequences are felt in lower patient satisfaction scores, medical errors and malpractice suits, while hospitals experience decreased productivity, erosion of team work and increasing clinician turnover.

So what can clinicians do to combat burnout? ACC Vice President-Elect Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC, said there are three key things: 1) identify values; 2) optimize meaning in work; and 3) nurture personal wellness activities. She noted the importance of "taking control over your own wellness," knowing personal limits, finding gratitude and joy, working smarter vs. harder, and remembering what is important. "Do what you tell your patients to do," she said.

ACC Immediate Past President C. Michael Valentine, MD, MACC, said the ACC and ESC have important opportunities to help their members manage and avoid burnout, including developing resources, listening and learning from cardiovascular professionals, sharing and best practices, and most importantly "educate, educate, educate." He highlighted activities like professional coaching and/or workflow changes addressing call management and shared responsibilities across the care team that have been proven to reduce stress and improve job satisfaction.

Valentine noted that clinician well-being is already embedded in ACC's Strategic Plan, whether through investments in member leadership training, engagement with health systems, efforts to support members in improving care, or the creation of solutions and tools that advance quality, equity and value of cardiovascular care.

"Clinicians are struggling and need our help," he said. "The costs – both financially and in terms of patient care – are too big to ignore."

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Keywords: ESC 19, ESC Congress, Cardiology Magazine, Job Satisfaction, Burnout, Professional, Depersonalization, Workplace, Leadership, Patient Satisfaction, Workflow, Mentors, Physicians, Personnel Turnover, Efficiency, Stress, Psychological, Malpractice, Patient Care, Medical Errors, Suicide, Life Style, Alcohol Drinking

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