Lisa Swanson, MD: Strategies to Combat Burnout

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Lisa Swanson, MD, explains how building resiliency is crucial for coping with burnout.

Burnout among providers is a growing concern, driven by a combination of logistical burdens, decreased autonomy, and constant connectivity. Over time, these factors have compounded, creating a frustrating environment for many in the medical field. The increasing demands of paperwork, prior authorizations, and extensive documentation consume time that could be spent with patients. Additionally, decreased reimbursement rates have led to higher patient loads, further exacerbating the stress and workload for providers.

In an interview with HCPLive,Lisa Swanson, MD, pediatric dermatologist at St Luke’s Children’s Hospital and Summer 2024 Conference Medical Director, discussed the steps providers can take to avoid burnout, which was presented at this year’s SDPA Annual Summer Dermatology Conference.

She explained that the rise of hospital buyouts and private equity has resulted in a loss of control over medical practices and professional environments. Insurance difficulties particularly contribute significantly to burnout, as providers are forced to navigate numerous administrative hurdles, often having their medical judgment questioned. This constant battle to help patients while dealing with bureaucratic obstacles is a major source of frustration.

The erosion of personal time is another critical issue. The omnipresence of electronic medical records, emails, and cell phones means that providers are rarely able to completely disconnect from work. Swanson noted that in the past, vacations provided a true break from professional duties. Now, work follows providers everywhere, making it difficult to recharge effectively. To combat this, she actively seeks out vacation spots without cell phone service to ensure a break from work-related stress.

Swanson emphasized building resiliency is crucial for coping with burnout. However, although individual resilience can help, systemic changes are also necessary to improve the overall environment. To build resilience, providers should reflect on their ideal professional life, identify frustrations, and seek ways to address them. Making time for personal interests and hobbies, practicing mindfulness, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are also important. Engaging with colleagues, attending conferences, and taking on leadership roles can also provide support and a sense of agency.

“If you think about it, burnout is a symptom of caring too much about doing a good job. You want to continue to do that, and when you feel like you don't have the energy to do it anymore, it makes you sad,” Swanson concluded. “I think burnout is a sign of being an excellent medical provider because it means that you care, and that's what's important.”

Disclosures: Swanson is a consultant for Abbvie, Alphyn, Arcutis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Castle, Dermavant, Galderma, Incyte, Janssen, Leo, Lilly, Novan, Pfizer, Sanofi-Regeneron, and Verrica.