Burnout, medical education & design thinking

By Loren Deutsch

Last month I presented a “Cool Idea” at the 2019 Innovations in Medical Education Conference at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine. It was titled, Using design thinking to deliver techniques that address burnout. Below is the abstract; let me know your thoughts!

Consider the implications for early career physicians who contend with symptoms of depression. What is their quality of life and what is the quality of care they provide to their patients?

Medical educators are increasingly concerned about how to support students, residents, and early career physicians when they experience psychological problems such as burnout. There is a stigma associated with burnout, as well as depression, suicidal ideation, and mental health conditions. These conditions are often seen as personal failures. As such, a culture of silence has evolved and has made it even more difficult to openly discuss mental health, particularly for those most in need of support.

Medicine has often seemed more comfortable contending with failure in the abstract but continues to be uncomfortable with personal struggles and actual failures. Reducing stigma requires listening, conversations, compassion, and sensitivity among other variables. When people are able to openly discuss and listen a shared understanding and sympathetic environment develops. 

To design a solution, we must foster an environment that gives voice to human needs and consideration from multiple perspectives. With increasingly high rates of burnout in medical education and among early career physicians, design thinking offers a framework in which to address complex challenges and provides a solution-based approach for change across multiple groups. 

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