Healthy work/life balance is essential for caregivers

Office for Professional Worklife is the first of its kind to address physician stress

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For many professions, finding the right balance between work schedules and home life can be challenging. Health care providers are not immune to this issue. In fact, stress and burnout are prevalent in the medical field and if left unaddressed, can affect both providers and patients.

“Physician burnout is  an epidemic,” explains Dr. Mark Linzer, an internal medicine physician and nationally recognized expert on issues surrounding physician burnout. “But research has shown that there are effective ways to improve the workplace and decrease clinician stress.”

After researching the topic for 20 years, Dr. Linzer is bringing his expertise home to focus on a new innovation at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) – the creation of the Office for Professional Worklife (OPW).

“We believe healthy providers are essential to achieving our organizational goals of providing outstanding patient and family centered care,” says Dr. Linzer. “In doing this, we want our clinicians to feel supported when they provide high quality care to their patients.We also want them to be available for their families and their own self-care.  This will result in more energy for patient care, better recruitment and retention, more loyalty to the organization, and better morale among clinicians and staff.”

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Dr. Mark Linzer and Sara Poplau

Dr. Linzer and his colleague Sara Poplau, Senior Research Project Manager and Assistant Director of the OPW, will head the program that focuses on offering wellness services that improve the work lives of all HCMC providers. There’s a national need for this type of focus on stress and burnout, and they hope this program will become a model for other care systems.

“Providers need to know their workplace is supportive of  work life balance,” says Dr. Linzer. “This can be accomplished by implementing wellness initiatives that redesign workflow in the clinics and improve communication between provider groups.” Linzer and Poplau  hope to create a model of the supportive organization that promotes humanism in medicine and the highest quality care for patients.

Services offered by the OPW will include: one-on-one discussions about work-life; advocacy for ways to improve balance between work and life for providers; and partnering with the HCMC Provider Wellness Committee, Wellness Champions and Department Chiefs to ensure that the needs of providers are heard and addressed. “We hope by elevating work-life balance to the level of this office that providers will know this is a serious issue and there is help,” said Sara Poplau.

One unique feature of the OPW will be a “reset room” where providers can go for quiet time to recharge during the busy workday. It will serve as an “oasis” for providers during stressful times.

“Our providers work very hard and are dedicated to delivering compassionate, high-quality care for those in need,” Dr. Linzer says. “We all come with the best intentions, but sometimes we get stressed. Addressing issues before they cause burnout is critical to making sure that providers are practicing medicine in the best environment possible.”

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