Conference Closing Keynoter: Take Charge of Stress
When Lakshman Swamy, MD, MBA, was a medical resident, he thought intensive care was “where the action was. Everything happens right then, right there.” However, he quickly realized, “This is barely the start of the patient’s journey. Recovery is immense for so many people, and they leave the hospital with incredible functional deficits. My friends in post-acute and long-term care medicine get these patients through recovery and give them their lives back.” His admiration for this group has him especially pleased and honored to talk about “Beyond Burnout: Practical Solutions to Improve the Work” at the Society’s annual conference in Atlanta, GA, this March.
“I’m looking forward to diving into all of the challenges and issues that contribute to burnout among these practitioners,” Dr. Swamy says. He hopes to work with his audience to help them devise tailored solutions. He says, “The system needs to be fixed. In the meantime, I want people to feel enabled and empowered to make changes themselves. I want practitioners to leave this presentation with a sense of optimism and empowerment.”
Many recent efforts to combat burnout have focused on the individual practitioner. In his keynote address on Sunday morning, Dr. Swamy will take a different look at burnout, highlighting particular features of the clinical environment that likely contribute to the problem and presenting opportunities for improvement. “We are all skilled, caring clinicians and our work should—and can—bring out the best in us,” he says.
In the end, Dr. Swamy believes it’s important to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all fix for burnout. For example, there are some ways to ease the pressure of high-tech charting on practitioners. Some have found relief through the use of voice-recognition technology. Elsewhere, a number of organizations partner practitioners with medical scribes to handle real-time charting and documentation during patient encounters.
Not that long ago, there was a stigma attached to burnout. Fortunately, that is changing. More organizations are addressing this problem and encouraging practitioners to seek support when they need it. “Increasingly, management and team leaders understand the importance of not expecting practitioners to be superhuman, and they are willing to utilize resources to minimize stress and promote a work-life balance,” says Dr. Swamy. “We’re moving in the right direction. People are talking about these issues more, and more individuals are opening up about their experiences.”
Dr. Swamy urges practitioners to take charge of their stress. “We will see more people saying, ‘I won’t tolerate this’ when the demands of work are extreme or the organizational culture is toxic,” he says. He looks forward to helping conference participants make positive changes “for ourselves, our patients, and the future for all of us.”