Ten changes that could keep clinicians in the workforce in a pandemic



Favorable reactions to list

Dr. Barrett, who also serves on the editorial advisory board of Internal Medicine News, said the reactions to the checklist have been “overwhelmingly favorable and appreciative.”

Eric J. Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and editor-in-chief of Medscape Medical News, tweeted about this list: “For COVID-19, more than ever before, it’s vital to keep clinicians in the U.S. health care workforce. These are 10 steps that will help.” The tweet was retweeted more than 100 times.

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, is co-director for the  Program on Physician Well-Being at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr. Lotte Dyrbye

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, a primary care physician and codirector of the program on physician well-being at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in an interview that managing the anger around patients who choose to be unvaccinated is critical and something that has gotten little notice since the vaccines became available.

“Physicians and nurses are working extremely hard and seeing a lot of suffering and are taking care of patients very sick with COVID-19, knowing they had access to the vaccine. That is causing anger and frustration. We haven’t prepared health care workers to deal with that,” she said.

Outside expert: Not all items may be easy to implement

Dr. Dyrbye said that, though she found adding time to address COVID misinformation questions in appointments is very important, it may be wishful thinking.

The authors suggested training other members of the care team to answer those questions to free up time, but she said, for patients who have been swayed by misinformation, hearing information from someone other than the physician they have a relationship with won’t be convincing.

According to Dr. Dyrbye, the items on the list are not easy to implement, but the action plan is worthwhile to consider adopting as a multipronged approach.

“Most of these things are hard and we need to be in it for the long run,” she said.

The need is clear for efforts to address the mental health of not just experienced clinicians but those in training as well, she noted.

Related research

A study that was also recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that making a few simple changes can help improve the mental health of residents. The research, which included nearly 17,000 first-year residents who started training between 2007 and 2019, addressed indicators of mental health in light of interventions such as limiting residents’ work hours and providing more services.

The investigators found that, though depression remains high among residents, depressive symptoms among first-year residents dropped 24.4% from 2007 to 2019 in parallel with four main factors: an increase in mental health services; restrictions on work hours for residents; more sleep hours; and higher-quality feedback from faculty.

Dr. Barrett said she hopes her colleagues and health care workers everywhere will find some solace in seeing that the new checklist she coauthored was published in a prominent journal.

The message Dr. Barrett said she hopes they see is: “Someone is validating it is not in their head. They are validating we can do better. They are validating that we must.”

Dr. Barrett and coauthors had no conflicts of interest. Dr. Gold and Dr. Dyrbye also disclosed having no relevant financial relationships.


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