Home Career An antidote to physician burnout

An antidote to physician burnout

How doctors can recover from tough patient encounters

June 2016

Published in the June 2016 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

IF YOU’VE HEARD about the concept of mindfulness, you may know that the goal is to live in the moment and that the practice is linked to emotional well-being.

The concept, which has gained popularity in all kinds of settings, is now being used in health care. According to Eric Dinenberg, MD, MPH, mindfulness is backed by a sizeable body of evidence, which finds that the practice can effectively address depression, anxiety and pain.

“Mindfulness is about present moment attention,” Dr. Dinenberg says, “being able to notice distractions that take you away from the present moment, let go of those distractions and focus your attention back to the present.”

“With clinicians, we talk about ‘elite performance practice.’ “

marketplace-dinenberg~ Eric Dinenberg, MD, MPH Xpedition Health


As a consultant with southern California’s Synovation Medical Group, Dr. Dinenberg helps patients use mindfulness to treat pain. But as the co-founder of Xpedition Health, he is using the practice of mindfulness to help clinicians tackle a much different issue: burnout.

He and a colleague present a four-hour in-person mindfulness-based resiliency training session, ideally for a group of 20. That session is then augmented by six weeks of remote Web-based training, which includes daily feedback and peer support.

How can mindfulness help physicians avoid burnout? “It is the amount of patients that clinicians need to see, with no ability to recharge in between, that is grinding them down,” Dr. Dinenberg says. “Plus, many encounters are emotionally demanding and exhausting.” As part of the training, clinicians are taught to use the time they spend washing hands between patients to practice mindfulness, let go of any issues related to their last encounter and recharge in the present moment.

While physician burnout is receiving increased attention, he believes there is still stigma attached to admitting symptoms. “There is still a sense that burnout is due to personal weakness, so we tailor our language depending on the audience,” Dr. Dinenberg says. “With clinicians, we talk about ‘elite performance practice.’ With administrators who know how much burnout is costing in turnover and errors, it’s a ‘burnout prevention program.’ ”

Xpedition Health is partnering with Hospitalist Management Resources (HMR), a national practice consultant headed by Martin Buser, MPH, and Roger Heroux, PhD, MHA, that has had more than 500 group clients.

“HMR is very accomplished at analyzing the needs and economics of hospitalist programs, while we have the ability to teach each practitioner and bring mindfulness to real-world applications,” says Dr. Dinenberg. “It is a good partnership.” More information is available online at www.xpeditionhealth.com or www.hmrllc.com.


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