The pandemic unleashed many already overworked Drs into a torrent of emotionally gruelling work periods. Now more than ever, it is essential that we come together to enhance physician well-being. At Hexarad, we embody this notion and work hard to cultivate an environment that is conducive to physician wellness. Why do we bother? It is often quoted that the suicide rate in UK Doctors is four times the national average. Evidently, as a profession, feelings of depression and anxiety are no rarity.
The latest clinical radiology workforce report exposes the rising rates of burnout and stress, with many opting for early retirement. Leaving such negative emotions simmering in the background can spiral and be a major concern for ourselves, our families and of course, our patients.
Multiple studies have unveiled the link between job stress and physiological fatigue. Sleep disorders and cardiovascular health are massively modulated by job stress, independent of working hours and lifestyle.
These factors play into the development of burnout, defined as emotional exhaustion, feelings of subpar accomplishment and compassion fatigue. Alongside navigating patient expectations and unpredictable working patterns, there exists a palpable pressure of needing to improve performance, which makes matters worse.
The RCR workforce report also revealed the mass expenditure going towards coping with workload. Within radiology, almost half of trusts/health boards reported leaving imaging studies auto-reported or unreported.
This hints at why radiologists are particularly prone to burnout – there are often large volumes of work to sift through, all of which entail high-stake decision making, usually done in isolation. Knowing that potential errors will remain recorded in documentation is an additional source of stress and can make the endless task load even more daunting.
Merely coming to terms with all of this is not easy, especially given that Doctors learn to adopt a culture of ‘soldiering on’ through difficult times. Many medical professionals exhibit perfectionist tendencies, often putting the needs of others before their own, thus maintaining a mindset that is more vulnerable to burnout.
Talking to friends and self-isolating are listed as the more popular coping strategies in the Burnout Lifestyle Survey in 2018. Worryingly, over a quarter of responses selected drinking alcohol and binge eating as additional coping mechanisms.
The remedy to this crisis requires a transformative change in culture within the workforce and among employers. We need a radical approach to detangle ourselves from a ‘work till you drop’ attitude and finally prioritize our own health.
Restoring yourself when you feel demoralized as a physician should be embraced. We need to normalise the necessity of choosing healthy coping habits and insisting on taking the time to do so. Furthermore, organisations should encourage a culture of clinical excellence that prioritises openness, learning and support.
At Hexarad, we understand this. We value our reporters and work hard to make their working environment as stress free as possible, so they can be the best at what they do.
We encourage our employees to connect with meaning to their work and look for active ways to ensure a sense of fulfilment in their role. In doing so, our aim is to set a higher standard for how organisations should engage in this issue and cultivate lasting positive change for ourselves and our patients. We hope that we are succeeding in this, but at the very least our reporters know we are making every effort.
Professor Vineet Prakash, had the following to say about Hexarad and wellness “Compassion fatigue experienced by both employer and employee and the lack of perceived value by the employee can lead to stress and ultimately burnout. This can negatively affect the ability to be an effective colleague and reporter.
Working as a reporter for Hexarad, I feel a sense of genuine understanding of the above and the company strives hard and successfully to make a direct well being connection throughout the whole team.
This peer support leads to me feeling valued as a reporter.
In addition, the team perform small gestures, such as distribution of well-being packs and the acknowledgment of important milestones of reporters such as birthdays. By doing this, the team have identified opportunities to enhance my feeling of being a valued and celebrated member of the reporting community.
The Hexarad team promptly responds to any reporters queries and concerns in a timely manner via a variety of GDPR compliant platforms. This also leads to an agile and connected system which makes it easier as a reporter to handle daily stresses and increase resilience.
Medscape UK Doctors’ Burnout & Lifestyle Survey 2018:
Vrijkotte et al. Effects of work stress on ambulatory blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability. Hypertension. 2000 Apr – 35(4):880-6.
Kalimo R et al. Job stress and sleep disorders: Findings from the Helsinki Heart Study.