Provider Stress & How to Handle it

Written by on December 31, 2014 in Practice tips - No comments

It was that time of year again – the holiday season.  Managing work-life balance is a great challenge for many in the health professions, and the added stress of the holidays could have been the tipping point. Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are patients too. One study from the Stress in America survey suggests that patients are not receiving what they need from their health care providers to manage stress and address lifestyle and behavior changes that would improve their individual health.

DoctorBulbWEBPAs and NPs are estimated to do about 85% of the work a physician would otherwise provide in the primary care setting.  It has been discussed by many sources that the population of patients being managed is sicker and more complex than seen in the past.  Nationwide, hospitals and health systems are moving toward using more PAs and NPs and there is a much greater emphasis on team based care.  Many colleagues are reporting increased stress and the research indicates that more than 2/3 of US adults with high stress report that their stress has indeed increased in the last year.  Growing concerns about physician shortages are increasing reliance on PAs and NPs to fill the gaps.  Increasing capacity of the health system to meet the growing numbers of patients seeking care is critical and necessary.

How is a busy clinician to cope?

One handout from the California Department of Public Health details the key elements of stress management for health care professionals.  Long work hours, decreased sleep and fatigue all contribute to poor self-care and increased provider stress.  The old saying, “Healer Heal Thyself” rings true.  It is critically important to remain in contact with loved ones and participate in relaxing and enjoyable activities.  Taking regularly scheduled breaks from direct patient care allows the mind to clear and refresh.  Establishing a place to talk with colleagues and clear communication is important for stress moderation.

Keeping a sense of perspective, and trying to stay positive is an opportunity to refocus. Try to remember the big picture. We have great jobs with tremendous responsibility. It’s a privilege and an honor to be allowed to care for patients and we can sometimes make a huge difference.


About the Author:
Lisa P. Shock, MHS, PA-C, is a seasoned PA who has worked with clients to expand care teams in both large and small settings. She enjoys part time clinical practice and is the President and CEO of Utilization Solutions in Healthcare – a specialty consultant company for physician practices and hospitals, offering a wide range of services to help implement and improve upon the utilization of PAs and NPs in the health care system. Contact her at

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