Creating a great working environment, quality care and an efficient ED: why staff wellbeing is vital

A mounting body of evidence shows that burnout is a serious issue among doctors, including those who work in emergency medicine.

Much work has been done to understand the phenomenon and a variety of strategies are being developed to help empower ED staff to address it.

In her presentation ‘Creating a great working environment, quality care, and an efficient ED: why staff wellbeing is vital’, at the ACEM 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting in November, Dr Bethany Boulton from Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service in Queensland will explore this important topic from a number of perspectives.
She will address some of the misconceptions that surround the topic and look at a number of organisational strategies that can be used to combat burnout.

“Burnout is not depression,” she says. “It is also not an identifiable mental health disorder. But burnout, in the form of emotional exhaustion and feelings of disconnection in our work lives can spill over and have a dramatic effect on our personal lives.”

Do not miss the opportunity to attend the ASM and hear presenters like Bethany. Register now! 

The social and wellbeing activities at the ASM are second to none. Choose from a variety of events and book early to avoid disappointment!

Just the facts

ACEM’s 2016 Workforce Sustainability Survey Report revealed that significant numbers of emergency physicians and emergency medicine trainees in Australia and New Zealand are experiencing burnout.  

“For an individual doctor, burnout can increase their risk of drug and alcohol abuse and adversely affect their close relationships,” Bethany says. “For the health system, burnout increases the risk of staff turnover and can also cause staff to reduce their clinical hours and retire early.”

These factors are likely to have an effect on patient care, Bethany says. 

She mentions some data from the United States explicitly correlating burnout with medical error.

“The US data indicated that it may be possible to predict who’s going to make a medical error in the next three months based on the indicators related to burnout,” she says. “So the relationship between physician burnout and diminished levels of patient care is becoming increasingly clear.” 

To address the problem, interventions are increasingly being seen as the best way forward, but Bethany says the right approach is critical. 

“I hope to be able to clarify in my talk that strategies to reduce burnout should not predominantly target individuals,” she says. “Primarily, they need to prioritise helping the organisation to acknowledge there’s a problem, measure it and implement change at individual, local and systemic levels.” 

Leading by example

Any kind of cultural shift of this level is always going to be a major undertaking, however there are some effective approaches already facilitating real change.

“Taking a bottom-up approach and empowering staff to contribute to solving problems themselves has been shown to improve levels of satisfaction and decrease burnout,” Bethany says. “Peer support programs where small groups of physicians get together over a meal every few weeks to discuss an issue and enjoy collegial support have also been effective.” 

Meaningful connected leadership is also key to any strategy. Bethany will highlight work done at the Mayo Clinic in the US, in particular the relationship between the qualities of the leader and the levels of workplace satisfaction and burnout. 

“Some organisations are now revisiting how they select their leaders. There is evolving insight into the fact that a highly skilled or learned clinician isn’t necessarily going to make a great leader. So we have to ask, how do we improve the leaders?”

A compelling and interactive program

This year’s ASM will be held in Sydney from 19-23 November at the new Sydney International Conference Centre, and will focus on the themes of ‘Impossible is just a perspective’ and ‘Getting the balance right.’

The meeting will offer a compelling and interactive program, broad enough to cover the full gamut of emergency medicine, with a line-up of the most inspiring, entertaining and knowledgeable speakers in the emergency medicine world today. Each will be taking on the hard topics and exploring the nuanced discussion, plus cutting-edge research and novel ways to translate into practice.

Check out the program and registration details on the ASM website.