Usually when you find your state or community in the #1 spot on any list, you feel pretty good about it, as in "Boise: The Fastest Growing City in the Nation." But when Idaho fell from #4 in 2016 down to #20 in Medscape's 2018 Best and Worst Places to Practice, the blame was one on thing: physician burnout, which is reported as 51% in our state and puts us on top of the list nationally.
What the heck?!
As the director of Ada County Medical Society, which represents more than half of the state's physicians, I could take it as an organizational failure that all our efforts over the past three years around physician vitality seem to have been for naught. The optimist in me wants to spin these survey results as just being the most honest state in the nation about our burnout. After all, most national polls put physician burnout across specialties at least 50% or more. So, if our state physicians are reporting that same average (but no one else is higher than us), maybe we're finally just feeling comfortable saying what is really going on here.
I probably would have made a poor statistician.
The one thing that we can point to is a growing, medical community-wide conversation about the challenges of the profession in our state where:
In May we sponsored Dr. Dike Drummond, the editor of thehappymd.com and a national expert on physician burnout. He spoke to a blowout crowd of 120 gathered at The Riverside Hotel for his workshop. Afterwards, as we talked about all the things happening in our medical community around physician wellness, he said our little "hotbed of activity" was quite impressive and something we should draw hope from.
There are some great upcoming opportunities to participate in including the remainder of our Physician Vitality series featuring Dr. Paul DeChant and Dr. Colin West in July and September respectively. Dr. Deb Roman has organized a very impressive speaker and topic list around on Meaning in Our Work to be held at the end of September at the JUMP Building. And ACMS just launched the website PhysicianVitality.org to push its growing list of resource out beyond our own local audience.
But I think one of the best tactics for chipping away at our unenviable #1 spot is to start more personal conversations with colleagues whose light has been little dim lately. It might start like this:
Question: "How are you doing?"
Answer: "Fine," (with a flat affect.)
Response "No, how are you really doing? You want to go get a bite to eat and talk about it?"
That level of caring reflects the kind of compassion our medical community is known for, regardless of what the statistics say.