Managing Stress and Burnout as a Physician Today MSHP Spotlight on Dr. Greg Dodell, a member of MSHP's Clinically Integrated Network (CIN)
It’s no secret that stress and burnout are serious challenges physicians face daily. CIN Endocrinologist and PCP, Dr. Greg Dodell, found that his mind was always on what he had to do next, how to fulfill his patient’s needs, and not on what was happening in the moment. He decided to take up mindfulness practices to help him manage these stressors, and in fact it has helped him channel that energy into really hearing his patients during the limited time he has with each of them. This has helped him find peace in his practice and rediscover the joy of practicing medicine.
Living in the Moment
Dr. Greg Dodell says from a young age his life was about getting to the next level. While in college it was all about the MCAT, then the boards, then residency, then fellowship, and so on. Practicing mindfulness helped him harness his ambition and focus it on his ultimate goal: treating patients. The messages and the prescriptions in the EMR are still there. Payroll and business needs still need to be tended to, but meditation and mindfulness help him reset and focus on what’s at hand.
Rather than just clicking away on the EMR, he found wonder in listening to the patient’s heartbeat, taking blood pressure, and just conversing with patients when he could be in the moment and present with his patients.
Managing Patient Expectations
Being mindful of slowing down and being in a moment can be extremely challenging especially when patients’ needs and expectations often come first, especially in this business. How is that possible when you have so many patients to see and so little time? How do you provide good quality care when the volume can be so demanding? And for Dr. Dodell, he sees between 20 and 25 patients a day.
“That’s the challenge, just the sheer volume of seeing a lot of patients every day. [I go] back to the mindfulness to be present with them but also know that I have 15 minutes with you because I can’t keep people waiting…and [then you have to worry about the] online reviews [which I know is] on a lot of our minds in private practice because that really drives the practice,” says Dr. Dodell.
Word of mouth is important and sometimes these reviews can be unpredictable. This would weigh heavily on Dr. Dodell’s mind early on in his career but he soon enough realized that he just couldn’t please everyone. All he could do was his best.
“Patients look at your reviews so you don’t want to keep people waiting too long but when you’re in the room with them you want to be present so it’s challenging. Anyone can go online and write anything they want about you. And they could be your twentieth person of the day and you could be tired but they could have been waiting months to see you so you have to be all in so that’s a challenge,” Dr. Dodell explains.
Fortunately, he’s able to rely on his staff as well. Long-time staff who are invested in the practice’s success do their part to keep patients happy while they wait to be seen. “Our longest tenured office staff have been there long before I was so I lean on them. They have known many of the patients for decades! It makes me so happy to hear compliments from patients about the staff because I know they give it their all to serve,” says Dr. Dodell.
Health Care beyond the Prescription Pad
Mindfulness has not only helped Dr. Dodell reduce some of the stress endemic to being a physician today but has also become part of his medical toolkit in caring for his patients. He wants to treat his patients more holistically than the norm by creating meaningful and long lasting relationships with them and encouraging them to incorporate mindfulness and yoga into their care plans, having seen firsthand the benefits of stress reduction.
Additionally, Dr. Dodell emphasizes care beyond just what’s physiological. “Stress is a vital sign,” he says. “It impacts blood sugar and blood pressure. If that’s not being talked about then maybe we’re missing something in our annual checkups. Patients tend to be really psyched when I bring this up. Let’s not prescribe more medications if we don’t have to – how else can we make them healthy?”
Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in a dark room with a candle, Dr. Dodell reminds us. The best time and place for it is wherever and whenever you can do it. On the subway, taking a walk, or at lunch. It doesn’t need to be a formal thing; it’s taking moments to reset. Dr. Dodell offers some tips to incorporate it into your practice and personal life:
Do you incorporate mindfulness into your medical practice? We’d love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com.
If you are interested in being featured in the MSHP Provider Spotlight Series, please contact Tiffany Cheng at Tiffany.Cheng@mountsinai.org.
Check out our previous provider spotlights:
Key to Quality Care is Managing Practice Operations Efficiently: MSHP Spotlight on CIN Primary Care Provider, Dr. Danuta A. Jankowska
Visit our News & Media page for all of our newsletters, podcasts, and spotlights.