Anita Everett, MD, recent past-president of the American Psychiatric Association, discusses physician burnout and compassion fatigue.
Professional burnout is one of the main themes of this meeting, and I am grateful to the program committee as they designed the meeting so that we have a fair number of sessions that are focused on that, to help refuel attendees of the meeting.
Compassion fatigue is one of the symptoms of burnout, and that has to do with when you lose the capacity — or experience diminished capacity — to feel empathy and work your patients and engage them, which of course for us is one of the most important features and how we work with individuals who seek our consultation. It is very important, and one of the things that is interesting to me is the growing awareness of risk management companies and hospital staff. Earlier today in one of the sessions there was a professional who has switched careers from being a psychiatrist to being an ethicist, and she says that one of the most common hospital ethics complaints has to do with physicians and a sense of them losing their capacity to care and be involved with the patient. We are really worried from a quality healthcare perspective about the impact that burnout can have. It’s a big issue for us.