I'll say it up-front: Richard Branson has very little in common with most doctors.
He's the founder and Chairman of the Virgin Group, which means he runs over 400 companies. He's one of the richest people in the world, owns an island, and has a penchant for risque PR stunts. Not exactly a conservative professional. When he was in elementary school, the headmaster -- fed up with his poor behavior and worse grades -- told him he'd either end up in jail or a millionaire.
That said, Branson juggles priorities and people in the same way healthcare professionals do. As the operator of an airline he is in a high-risk field with plenty of regulation, as are we. And with half of healthcare providers reporting burnout, we need to start drawing creativity and strategies from outside of medicine. So in our ongoing effort to swap healthcare provider burnout for collaboration and ease, we're featuring Branson's wisdom, practices, and ideas.
Richard Branson's top tips for avoiding healthcare provider burnout:
- Swim around the island. Branson explained in Fortune Magazine that he gets up at 5:30 every morning to swim around Necker Island to care for his body, recharge his mind, and cut stress. True, you may not own an island and your mornings may already be maxed out. But with new research showing that even 7 minutes of exercise can be hugely beneficial, it might be time to consider whether a little pre-work workout could be just the burnout prevention you need.
- Use technology in a low-tech way. Richard Branson is famously low-tech, using pencil and paper more than a computer, and often dictating email responses instead of typing. But in running an airline, a space travel company, and a mobile phone empire, he certainly needs to tap into tech in savvy ways. So we often take a page from his book and choose the most modern, best-designed apps and programs for our work because they are actually the most intuitive to use and easiest to integrate into our lives. For instance, ClickCare is designed to feel like a conversation, not a technological marvel. Whether it's ClickCare or something else, don't be afraid to use the best, most high-tech solutions out there, choose low-tech options when they make sense, and let it all follow whatever workflow works best for you.
- Ignore (some of the) rules. In medicine, we're trained to be rule-followers. We follow standard of care guidelines, HIPAA regulations, and administrator admonitions. Most of the time, this is exactly how it should be. There's no need to get creative and put someone at risk. But as Richard Branson says, "You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing.” So while your actual practice of medicine should probably continue as-is, healthcare providers may experience less burnout if they create some rule-free zones in their work. Whether it's how you paint the office, what you put in the waiting room, or how you collaborate with your colleagues, it's likely that there are rules you're following that are unnecessary -- and that you'd benefit from ignoring.
- Communicate. Collaborate. As Branson said in Business Insider, "The quality of business communications has become poorer in recent years as people avoid phone calls and face-to-face meetings, I can only assume, in some misguided quest for efficiency." As in business, communication (among providers and to patients) in medicine has gotten exponentially harder in recent years. But one of the best ways to avoid healthcare provider burnout is to cultivate the collaboration, support, and encouragement that comes from good communication. So use ClickCare or another tool, and invest in communication, even if it's just a few minutes per day.
- Avoid an "us vs. them" environment. Few people talk about it, but it's incredibly common for an adversarial environment to exist in medicine. Providers vs. administrators; patients vs. providers; and everyone against HIPAA. There are some valid reasons for the tensions that exist in medicine, and the challenges are real. But within a team, it can drop stress levels and up performance if you look for ways to collaborate rather than compete, and encourage rather than reprimand. Branson says that this is one of the things that makes Virgin Group what it is, and he works with tens of thousands of employees worldwide. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it. As our good friend, Dr. Rudolpho Suguitan, always said, "You can always afford to be gracious."