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Using Locum Tenens to Fight Burnout

Physician burnout is a growing concern in facilities of all shapes and sizes across the country. The daily pressure and stress of caring for patients — combined with ever-increasing patient loads — has resulted in more physicians considering leaving the profession than ever before.

What can employers do about it?

Dr. Larry Daugherty has the unique perspective of working as a practicing physician and handling staffing responsibilities for his group practice.

He says, “There’s a high percentage of burnout in medicine and my own personal opinion is that a big reason for that is physicians sometimes are a little too much married to work. While I love my work — there's nothing I’d rather be doing — my work is not my life.”

He finds that he does his best work with patients, and is happiest in his life, when he strikes a balance between his profession and has passion. He regularly takes time off for big adventures. In fact, he chose to join a practice in Alaska so he could mush dogs and race in the annual 1,000-mile Iditarod.

He also cofounded a nonprofit to purchase medical equipment for facilities in Kenya and other third-world countries. He raises funds for the nonprofit by leading climbing expeditions to Mount Everest and other challenging locations.

An Inside Look at Weatherby Healthcare from Weatherby Healthcare on Vimeo.

Dr. Daugherty can only take time off for these activities if he has a physician to take care of his patients while he’s away. He relies on Weatherby Healthcare to provide him with high-quality locum tenens physicians.

“When I want to take a vacation, I essentially reach out to our contact at Weatherby,” he says. “Over time, having an established relationship with Weatherby has enabled me to have kind of a predictable and reliable pool of physicians that we like, that we trust, that I’m acquainted with, who can cover for me. It works well for my staff, for me, and our administration.”

Using locums to prevent burnout

Many medical facilities only turn to locum tenens when they’re down a physician or when a doctor is out on extended leave. However, locum tenens can be a valuable way to staff up during busy times, taking some of the pressure off of your full-time staff and helping to reduce the likelihood of burnout.

If you’re not sure what burnout looks like, here are a few of the signs:

  • Disinterest in work
  • Poor work/life balance
  • Unhealthy eating and physical habits
  • Anger and irritation
  • Inability to see a positive future

If you’re seeing these signs in your physicians, don’t wait to help them. Look for ways to reduce their stress and address the issues they’re facing. That could range from hiring a medical scribes to help with paperwork, to encouraging mindfulness, to bringing on locum tenens to lighten the load.

With a growing physician shortage, we need to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep physicians in medicine.


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