Stanford Medicine is collaborating with the California Medical Association on a project to battle the epidemic of physician burnout by providing support services to doctors across the state.

The five-year, multimillion-dollar initiative will tackle the complex problem of burnout through a multipronged approach built on a population health framework. It will include efforts to promote well-being for all physicians; provide tailored support at times of increased risk for burnout, such as when physicians have relocated or are going through malpractice suits; and assistance for physicians experiencing burnout or who are considering leaving the profession.

The program also will try to change the culture within the medical community that holds physicians to superhuman expectations, discourages mental health treatment and results in exhausted, cynical physicians.

“Addressing the systemic issue of physician burnout is essential to not only increasing physician well-being but ultimately delivering better patient care,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “I’m confident that this comprehensive project that incorporates research-driven strategies developed at Stanford Medicine will help get to the core of the problem.”

“In addition to mitigating burnout, we hope to reduce the physician suicide rate in California,” said Mickey Trockel, MD, PhD, project co-leader and clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. “We also hope that by engaging physicians — and their organizations — in preserving physician well-being, they will be more effective in serving those who need them.”

The project will focus on practical, hands-on methods of prevention and intervention, with programs available to all physicians.It will incorporate a leadership academy to train medical leaders from across the state on leadership behaviours to cultivate professional fulfillment  at the work unit and organizational level. It also will include efforts to convene leaders from medical schools and residency programs statewide to work together to help change the culture of medicine and improve well-being for physicians in training.

It will also encourage collegiality and community-building, provide individual coaching programs for physicians and offer access to new professional development opportunities.

In addition, the project will provide support to the WellMD Center for improving wellness among Stanford medical school faculty and staff, as well as serve as a vehicle for other Stanford experts in undergraduate and graduate education and in leadership development to disseminate their knowledge to benefit physicians statewide.