Relationships, Community, and Connection in Primary Care with Elizabeth Metraux

Like all good things done right, relationship building takes time and effort. Any lasting and fruitful relationship leaves no room for shortcuts: one recent study found that it takes two people 50 hours to go from being acquaintances to casual friends. It takes another 90 hours to go from casual to close friends, and an additional 200 hours to become best friends. This dynamic is no different – and is much more nuanced – in a healthcare setting.

Demands of the healthcare industry have weakened the patient-provider relationship. Back-to-back eight-minute visits, hours EHR data entry, and other byproducts of a broken healthcare system are collectively creating discontented providers. Requirements that must be met through protocols and processes are preventing physicians from developing meaningful relationships with their patients.

These demands are weighing heavily on practitioners. Compared to the general U.S. population, physicians display higher rates of emotional exhaustion (43% versus 24%) and higher rates of depersonalization (23% versus 14%). As a result, 36% of physicians reported being satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 61% of the U.S. general population. The consequences of such isolation are grim: suicide is a leading cause of death in male physicians, and up to 30% of physicians suffer from depressive episodes.

The writing is on the wall. It’s time to start taking care of doctors the way they take care of their patients.

In this episode of Relational Rounds, our host Elizabeth Metraux discusses her conversations and interventions with clinicians on relationships, isolation, and burnout in medicine with PCP President and Founder Dr. Andrew Morris Singer. Tapping into PCP’s network of over 8,000 physicians, Elizabeth’s initial project evolved as her conversations became more intense and powerful. More often than not, she’s heard two heartbreaking words from doctors: “I’m lonely.”

With an extensive background in politics and communications, Elizabeth is asking the difficult questions, providing physicians with the space to express themselves, and uncovering what’s really going on in the trenches of primary care. Tune into this week’s episode to hear how community and connection are contributing to physicians’ well-being in an environment threatened by burnout and loneliness.

Primary Care Progress

Founded in 2010, Primary Care Progress is a national organization committed to building stronger primary care teams. Working with current and future healthcare professionals from across disciplines and career stages – from students and faculty to providers and health systems leaders – we offer leadership development and support that emphasizes relational skills, individual resiliency, and advocacy. By providing the resources and community necessary to excel, we’re strengthening the teams at the heart of primary care, ultimately leading to sustainable models of care and better health for all.

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