I’m stressed. Apparently, National Stress Awareness Month has been around since 1992, but this year is the first I’ve heard of it — perhaps I’ve been too busy dealing with practice management issues that give so many medical group leaders stress of their own.
In an April 17 MGMA Stat poll, healthcare professionals were asked whether they were taking part in National Stress Awareness Month this April. Although most respondents said that their organization is not participating, 60% indicated in a follow-up response that they were not aware of stress awareness month. Overall, 5% of respondents indicated they were taking part and the remaining 6% were unsure.
Per the American Institute of Stress, stress can be a subjective phrase with multiple meanings, including the popular definition from Hans Selye: “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” In a biological sense, stress is our response to stressors, which could include environmental conditions, external stimuli or chemical/biological agents. From a psychological standpoint, stress is a type of pain — certain amounts of it can improve motivation and be a positive force, but in excess it can be very harmful.
To reduce stress in your medical practice, it’s important to understand what causes it.
- Life at home, and the stress you bring into work each morning. (Solution: Leave your stress at home.)
- Changes in healthcare. (Solution: Stay in the loop with MGMA Government Affairs to remain on top of healthcare changes.)
- And the catch-all, internal operational issues; e.g., scheduling, phone call, EHRs, co-workers, poor work conditions, and on and on. (Solution: if you’re the practice manager, you need to identify these issues and fix them. If you’re not the manager, let the manager know about them and work together to fix the issues.)
Once you identify the causes, how can you mitigate the bad stress in your office?
- Communicate openly with your staff. Establish clear goals and objectives, hold staff accountable, coach and mentor staff, incorporate MBWA (manage by walking around) and support your team), provide the information, tools and equipment your staff needs to succeed and recognize achievement.
- Take time to celebrate achievements. For example, work anniversaries, meeting goals, educational accomplishments, holidays and special events. Recognize your team as people, not just employees.
- Consider lunch and learn. Help your team with financial management, life planning, home buying. There are myriad opportunities to aid your team and help them grow.
- Offer health improvement options. Negotiate reduced rates at athletic clubs and yoga studios or bring in a massage therapist to perform chair massages every quarter.
- Plan social activities. Consider picnics, sporting events or group movie night. Be creative and innovative. Establish a budget and a committee of staff members, and let them develop ideas.
- Google stress relief. There are so many ideas from so many industries other than healthcare. Let’s learn from them.
Yes, working in healthcare can be stressful. However, if you utilize the tips mentioned above, you can reduce its effects on you and your staff.
- Read more from MGMA’s Christian Green, Writer/Editor on ways to reduce burnout
- Learn more at MGMA18 The Annual Conference in Boston about ways to help leaders, employees and physicians reduce their risk of burning out
- MGMA Government Affairs can help you stay on top of changes in healthcare
- Stay connected with timely articles on the most pressing topics.
Kenneth T. Hertz, FACMPE