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Dr. Richards to focus on provider well-being

Image with caption: Sarah Richards, MD

Sarah Richards, MD

It’s okay not to be okay. It’s something we keep reminding one another, as research shows those who work in health care continue to experience a high rate of burnout, anxiety and depression.

"It’s okay to get help," said Sarah Richards, MD, internal medicine and now senior medical director of clinician experience. "It’s a simple message, but it’s still a struggle for people to get help."

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Leslie Eiland, MD

It’s with that focus Dr. Richards will transition from her current patient experience medical director role and focus her leadership time on physician and advanced practice provider well-being and supporting health system efforts to raise awareness and support well-being for all. She will report to Harris Frankel, MD, chief medical officer, and continue to work closely with Steve Wengel, MD, assistant vice chancellor for wellness at UNMC and UNO.

"Burnout amongst health care professionals is not new but the pandemic has compounded the problem and brought important underlying issues to light," Dr. Richards said. "On a positive note, I feel like the conversation has been elevated and people are starting to feel a little more comfortable talking openly about their stressors and reaching out to others."

Earlier this year, Dr. Richards shared data in a colleague forum that revealed in May of this year, 66% of frontline workers who responded to a survey said they suffer from mild to severe anxiety and 71% said they suffer from mild to severe depression. Additionally, 368 physicians responded to the new Physician Wellbeing Pulse Survey in April and the results showed that about 42% of physicians are experiencing burnout and one in three physicians felt they needed to see a mental health professional in the past year.

Burnout can manifest as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (feelings of cynicism and detachment from patients and/or colleagues) and reduced feelings of work-related personal accomplishment. Symptoms of anxiety can include restlessness, irritability, fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms of depression can include feeling hopeless and losing interest in daily activities.

"You are not alone," Dr. Richards said. "The past year and a half have been incredibly difficult. If you find that you aren’t quite feeling yourself and aren’t functioning at your highest level, don’t feel guilty. Rather, try to give yourself grace and do something nice for yourself."  

As Dr. Richards gets focused on her new role, Leslie Eiland, MD, endocrinology, will expand her role to include patient experience, becoming the medical director of patient experience. 

"Nebraska Medicine remains focused on providing an ideal experience for our patients in both the ambulatory and inpatient setting," said Micah Beachy, DO, vice president and chief quality officer. "Dr. Eiland is a telehealth pioneer, and her clinical and telehealth expertise will be valuable in helping the organization fulfill our promise to our ambulatory patients."

Dr. Beachy said a search is underway for an additional physician to focus on patient experience in the inpatient setting. 

We have resources to help

If you are feeling depressed, anxious and need to talk with someone, you can email the Peers in Need of Support program and/or contact our Employee Assistance Program through Arbor Family Counseling at 402.330.0960 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1.800.273.8255. Also available is the Nebraska Licensee Assistance program to assist individuals with health-related service licensees, certificate holders and registrants.

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