Strategies for Addressing Female Physician Burnout

January 7, 2020

Fayola Edwards-Ojeba, MD, is the founder/CEO of RechargedMD, in Oakland, Calif. She graduated from Harvard College with honors, attended Yale Medical School and completed her internal medicine residency training at the University of California, San Francisco. She aims to change the national discourse around physician burnout to focus on systems-level challenges and solutions in our current healthcare climate. In this post, Dr. Edwards-Ojeba shares her insights on addressing physician burnout, and her experiences at 2019 Congress.

Why is the issue of physician burnout important to you?

I have always felt called to a lifelong profession of healing. As a practicing internist, I have striven to provide thorough and compassionate care, but felt constrained by my limited time with patients, the burden of battling insurance companies and long hours of after-clinic administrative work. Speaking with others in the field, I realized many physicians suffer in silence. Studies estimate burnout affects up to 55 percent of physicians nationally, and it is clear there are systemic factors at play. I founded RechargedMD to address physician burnout and work with hospital systems to identify and remediate it. By identifying and addressing the root causes of burnout, promoting physician leadership and providing a space for physicians to support one another, I believe we can make significant progress in addressing this public health crisis.

Fayola Edwards-Ojeba, MD

What aspects of burnout are female physicians especially vulnerable to?

In addition to the common causes of burnout, female physicians are faced with further challenges. With fewer females in leadership roles, we are less likely to be pegged for promotion, not to mention less likely to receive equal pay. We often carry more of the responsibilities related to family life and caregiving. Many of us can recall encounters in which our credentials, competence or professional titles were questioned or challenged due to our gender and/or race. Combined with the already stressful job of providing patient care, it makes sense that females and minority physicians experience burnout at higher rates.

What are some ways institutions can start to address burnout?

At RechargedMD, we have focused efforts around developing a roadmap to address each of these key domains:

  • Organization: Senior leadership must commit to prioritize addressing burnout.

  • Self & People: Provide space for clinicians to openly describe their work environment, collect accurate/anonymous data about the root causes of burnout and provide leadership opportunities for physicians to have real power in addressing some of these systemic factors.

  • Practice of Medicine: Provide ongoing process improvement and remove the burdens to providing quality clinical care.

  • Healthcare System: Find ways to engage in broader regional policy decisions affecting healthcare delivery.

You attended your first Congress in 2019. Describe your experience as a first-time attendee.

I was excited by the opportunity to meet and network with members in healthcare. It was valuable learning innovative ways to address our current healthcare system, as well as enhancing my knowledge of the business of medicine. After attending Congress, I approached ACHE about creating a session on female physician leadership and have been appreciative of their support for this initiative.

What do you hope attendees take away from your 2020 Congress session, “Women Physician Leadership: Strategies for Success?”

I hope attendees are inspired by the personal stories of our panel of exceptional, expert leaders. I will be joined by Joanne Conroy, MD,president/CEO, Dartmouth Hitchcock Health; Susan Ehrlich, MD, MPP, CEO, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; Bobbie Gostout, MD, president, Mayo Clinic Health System; Patrice Harris, MD, MA, president, American Medical Association; and Tama VanDecar, MD, CMO, HCA TriStar Division. We want attendees to leave with knowledge of institutional and individual strategies to promote success for women physicians in leadership.

Fayola Edwards-Ojeba, MD, will be presenting “Women Physician Leadership: Strategies for Success,” Session 19, on Monday, March 23, at the Congress on Healthcare Leadership. Learn more about the session and how to register.

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