Tackling inefficiencies to battle burnout

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When it comes to job stress, inefficient processes can be a major source of frustration and, ultimately, burnout. It was the issue that ranked highest in a Radiology Department survey of its members.

“After we received the data from the overall physician wellness survey, we formed a department wellness committee and conducted another survey designed specifically to identify our key drivers of burnout,” said Radiology wellness champion Dr. Silvia Chang. “We’re using project funding from the VC/VA Physician Wellness Steering Committee to address our specific department concerns.”

To determine how much inefficient processes impact the department, the Abdominal Imaging Section documented the number of times in a day its seven physicians were interrupted, the type of interruption, and the duration of interruptions.

“We also documented if the task could have been taken care of by someone other than a radiologist,” said Dr. Chang. “Phone calls were a common interruption as well as protocoling studies and certain fluoroscopic exams. These and other disruptions that could be handled by clerks, automation and technologists took each physician an average of 1.5 hours a day.”

Fortunately, VCH has been supportive of change and staff are keen to take on added responsibilities. Dr. Chang anticipates that once the clerks and technologists are trained to do these tasks, it will allow the radiologists to focus better on their work and the impact on their wellness will be significant. Importantly, it will also improve patient care.

“Not only do these interruptions slow us down, but there is also a risk of error when you’re constantly interrupted,” she said.

Radiology is also using its wellness funding to improve departmental engagement. Dr. Chang and her co-champion Dr. Sarah Barrett introduced monthly “metabolic meetings” in February. All radiologists working that day are welcome to enjoy coffee, snacks, and the opportunity to get to know one another better.

“We’ve had some great discussions and it’s good to have non-work conversations,” said Dr. Chang. “It’s been nice to get to know my colleagues better.”

Physician wellness is an important focus for Dr. Chang who also holds the position of vice chair of professionalism and wellness with the UBC Department of Radiology.

“Work is a big part of your life, and you want to be well and performing the best that you can,” she added. “That leads to a happy life outside of work as well. If we’re all engaged and working well collectively performing our scope of practice, that’s synergistic in terms of what we can do to optimize patient care. I’m glad to see VCH and VPSA working together on this physician wellness initiative.”

To find out more about the wellness survey results and how groups are using VPSA funding to help address physician well-being in their departments/divisions click here.

Photo (from left): Dr. Sarah Barrett, Dr. Silvia Chang, and booking clerk Sonsy Poon.

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