Physician Burnout and Ethics Committees

 

Kristin Edwards and Richard L. Newman

 

This article provides a brief background of key issues in physician burnout, a significant problem in the healthcare industry. The extent and severity of burnout are not well understood; and those seeking help are often stigmatized. A number of different approaches to alleviating burnout have been suggested, but the problem lacks any single or simple solution.

      We posit that an ethics committee may be well positioned to help address this issue because of its unique position within an institution. An ethics committee serves the entire hospital staff regardless of department. As such it may be able to identify common elements in the development of burnout, and can serve as a conduit to administration in identifying these. An ethics committee can obtain information about the extent of burnout by conducting surveys to assess the extent and severity of burnout in aninstitution, and serve as a central resource to help address and alleviate it.

      Finally, an ethics committee may be able to act as an intermediary between practitioners and the administration, in advising the administration of the extent of the problem and offer suggestions for alleviating it.

 

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