Physician burnout isn’t anything new – and it continues to be a serious problem for healthcare organizations across the globe, affecting both physician and patient well-being.

Locum tenens (Latin for “to hold the place of, to substitute for”) can help quell the burnout crisis by offering desperately needed staffing assistance at under-served health clinics, like those in Native and tribal communities. Locum tenens providers can reduce pressure placed on overworked, stressed-out, and burned-out healthcare professionals, thus improving patient care and medical staff well-being.  

Burnout is Pervasive in Healthcare Organizations 

In 2018, the President of the World Medical Association (WMA) warned of a “global physician burnout.” During his inaugural speech at the WMA’s General Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, he pointed out that nearly half of the world’s physicians (around 5 million) experienced symptoms of burnout. The most common signs of burnout include:

  • Negative attitudes toward patients
  • Emotional exhaustion or disengagement
  • Feeling decreased personal achievement

There isn’t only one root of this widespread problem. A physician may begin to feel burned out due to a lack of work-life balance, overwhelming administrative duties, changes in the mode for how care is delivered, or the everyday, sometimes-overwhelming stressors of the job. Left unaddressed, burnout can lead to low morale, declining quality of care and, tragically, an increased risk of suicide.

COVID-19 Puts Burnout in the Spotlight

COVID-19 only added fuel to the fire of physician burnout. Physicians continue to face psychological stress on the front lines of the pandemic, as many places have seen exploding case numbers and a shortage of both staff and resources.

The challenging conditions of a clinic overwhelmed with coronavirus cases is shown to have serious mental health implications for physicians. A March 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed how the pandemic has exacerbated burnout among Chinese doctors: 50.4% of those surveyed had symptoms of depression, 34% reported insomnia, 44.6% had symptoms of anxiety and 71.5% reported distress.

Additionally, chronically underfunded, overcrowded, and understaffed health facilities – like many of those serving tribal communities in the U.S. – are hit especially hard.

Pandemic or not, locum tenens can be a valuable resource for tribal healthcare facilities to tap. Working with locum tenens has multiple benefits:

  • More Flexible Scheduling. Locum tenens can free up time for other staff members and physicians who may be feeling burned out or desire more flexibility in their schedules.
  • A Refreshing Change of Pace. Working with locum tenens means teams are exposed to fresh perspectives and expertise. At Tribal EM, we ensure locum tenens are culturally sensitive and align with the clinic’s overall goals, to institute systemic improvements to delivery of care.
  • Much-Needed Staffing in Rural or Under-served Clinics. Most importantly, locum tenens can relieve overworked physicians, nurses, and other staff, particularly where resources are scarce. Locum tenens provides skilled, professional care and can have a lasting, positive impact on the clinic’s performance. While other staffing agencies may offer a temporary, short-term solution, Tribal EM strives for generational change that lasts long after locum tenens depart.

Tribal EM is dedicated to creating a sustainable healthcare model that benefits patients and physicians while combating burnout. We address the persistent shortage of healthcare providers at tribal facilities with our metric-managed approach to efficiently staff locum tenens. At the end of the day, this leads to more patients getting the care they need from qualified and committed professionals. Contact us to learn more.