Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science


Primary Care


Physicians, physician assistants (PA’s), and nurse practitioners (NP’s) are medical care providers who perform history and physical exams to create treatment plans for patients seeking medical care and are known collectively as clinicians. Clinicians have a high rate of burnout initially attributed to the amount of stress from their careers in the ever-changing field of medicine. Burnout was prevalent prior to the start of the Coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020 and has continued to increase during the pandemic due to added stress of a new disease, daily changes in protocols, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), staff shortages, increased workloads, and lack of needed resources. Burnout is a multifactorial process, leading to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and finally a loss of purpose. Organizations pay a large price for the burnout of clinicians due to increased medical errors, decreased productivity, lines of service loss, and clinician turnover. Studies were conducted to define burnout, determine root causes, and find solutions to help improve medicine. Initially, organizations placed the onus on clinicians to improve their own burnout, but more recent studies show clinician control is only one piece of the puzzle. Leadership can play a key role in reducing, preventing, or conversely contributing to burnout in clinicians. This clinical review article looks at the root causes of burnout, and ways in which leadership style can exacerbate or ameliorate the problem of clinician burnout.

Method: A PubMed literature search was conducted using the term physician, clinician, burnout, and leadership styles in numerous combinations. Fifty-one articles were found and eighteen are used in this clinical review article.

Results: Clinician burnout is driven by factors beyond their perceived control, specifically autonomy, loss of control of scheduling, work environment, and misaligned values with the organization. Organizational leaders play a key role in most of these components and can either compound or decrease burnout in the clinicians they manage. Creating a wellness - centered leadership model can lead to improvement of organizational culture, increased support of clinicians, identification and development of clinical talent, and alignment of clinician and organizational missions and values. This type of organizational culture decreases clinician burnout.

Conclusion: Burnout is an epidemic among clinicians affecting over 50% of the workforce. It is important for organizations to address clinician burnout to improve the health of organizations and the communities they serve. Leadership at all levels can create an organizational culture that decreases and even prevents burnout rather than adding to it.

Keywords: Clinician, Mental Health, Retention, Patient Safety, Leadership Styles


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