Possible solutions for medical specialists under pressure

Medische specialist rust uit op de grond in de gang van een ziekenhuis

Burn-out rates among Dutch physicians are high and they work in a demanding environment. In addition, like other workers, they must work until a higher age and their work is undergoing many changes. These developments challenge the employability of professionals in general and also that of physicians. In her PhD thesis Evelien van Leeuwen examines how the employability and career proactivity of professionals can be strengthened. Medical specialists are studied as a typical example of professionals.

On Friday 7 October Evelien van Leeuwen defended her PhD thesis CARE for professionals. Strengthening their careers and employability.

For her thesis Evelien van Leeuwen devised field experiments with medical specialists and their managers as participants. The medical specialists received a personalized feedback report and a training, and their line managers were trained in how to support the medical specialists in their team.

Results show that medical specialists particularly focus on their clinical development, namely developing in being a good doctor. While medical specialists are increasingly expected to be competent in non-clinical tasks (such as research, education and management tasks), they take little responsibility for their own development in these areas and are hardly supported in doing so by their employer (the hospital), their professional association and their manager. Besides this, attention for the employability and well-being of medical specialists is further limited.

Human Resource Development (HRD) practices, such as reflection tools and training programmes, may enhance the employability of medical specialists, and can support them in making career choices consciously and better prepare them for their future careers. This helps them to continue their work in a demanding work environment.

In addition, HRD practices help line managers to provide support to the specialists in their teams, developing their leadership skills for instance.

Evelien van Leeuwen MSc is management consultant at Bisnez and was a PhD student at the Utrecht University School of Governance (USG) and UMCU.