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Minimizing Medical Burnout: Dr Brynna Connor Of NorthWestPharmacy On How Hospitals and Medical P

Minimizing Medical Burnout: Dr Brynna Connor Of NorthWest Pharmacy On How Hospitals and Medical Practices Are Helping To Reduce Physician and Healthcare Worker Burnout

An Interview With Dan Rodrigues

Sleeping, eating, exercising, and caring for oneself are needed for our focus right now so we can be sure that we can thrive and move forward and not get stuck or worse.

The pandemic was hard on all of us. But statistics have shown that the pressures of the pandemic may have hit physicians and healthcare workers the hardest. While employment is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels generally, the healthcare sector is lagging behind with a significant percentage of healthcare workers not returning to work. This is one of the factors that is causing a shortage of doctors. Some experts say that the US may soon be short almost 124,000 physicians. (See here for example) What are hospitals and medical practices doing to help ease the extreme mental strain of doctors and healthcare workers? What are hospitals and medical practices doing to help solve the scourge of physician and healthcare worker burnout?

To address these questions, we are talking to hospital administrators, medical clinic executives, medical school experts, and experienced physicians who can share stories and insights from their experience about “How Hospitals and Medical Practices Are Helping To Reduce Physician and Healthcare Worker Burnout”. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Brynna Connor, MD, Healthcare Ambassador at

Dr. Brynna Connor, MD, owns a private practice in Austin, Texas and is a member of the Texas Academy of Family Practice, the American Academy of Family Practice, is board certified in family medicine and is a member of the American Board of Family Medicine and is a member of the Texas Medical Association. She serves as the Healthcare Ambassador at, the world’s most reviewed and independently five-star rated online pharmacy. Dr. Connor’s passion is for helping patients connect their mind and body through a whole-health approach and become better healthcare advocates for themselves.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My “childhood backstory” — wow, where to begin!

I grew up in a family of five children, and I was a very curious child. Whenever I asked my parents about the meaning of something or how something worked they would always send me to the top of the stairs where we had a bookcase with the majestic (cue…ahhhhhhh!) black and gold set of books — also known as the “World Book Encyclopedia.” At the top of the stairs, I would literally sit with those hard bound books for hours upon hours reading and reading and reading. I learned how things worked, how things were cataloged, and I learned the logic that I would take into my science studies.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Medicine for me is a calling, and I was inspired to pursue my career in medicine via a very circuitous route. Medicine as a career, a passion, and a true calling for me was not obvious at first. A medical career path was one that I knew absolutely nothing about until I got my feet wet, as there were no physicians in my family and no one before me was in healthcare either.

After I graduated with a liberal arts degree I moved to a rural state and worked in varying capacities in human services — from grant writing to direct care with people with disabilities — for several years before I decided to go to medical school.

I was in my twenties and away from home working as a VISTA Volunteer in Wyoming when my father died of sudden cardiac arrest. He had still been fairly young and after losing him so suddenly, I decided that I really needed to get into gear if I was going to go to graduate school… because “Life is Short!” as they say. So I re-enrolled in school to get some more pre-medical courses completed.

I decided to try to go to medical school because I have always had this inherent curiosity for how things work, and I wanted the depth of knowledge about the human body, wellness, and sickness that physicians have. I was inspired by this hunger I had — to learn more, to do more, to dig deep and to become an expert.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

One of the most exciting projects I am currently working on is having undergraduate students work with me in my family medicine outpatient practice! They do this to gain experience with shadowing, scribing, and exposure in general to healthcare and working with patients, so that they can apply to medical school with a better chance of acceptance.

These students also learn about the business of medicine, which is something that was not taught when I was in school. Without a business background, we physicians are often lost in this arena. Learning how to run a business and, especially the pitfalls to avoid in the business of healthcare, is definitely a prerequisite to working in the medical field.

These students are so bright and talented that I LOVE helping them learn. They are our future, and our future depends upon them!

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I can say without a doubt that a character trait I hold very dear to me is that of truly listening to my patients. I had a wise sage of an attending physician (that is the word for teaching and supervising physician) at Michael Reese Hospital on the southside of Chicago when I was a medical student rotating through those old concrete walls. He would say to us, “Listen to your patient — they will always tell you the diagnosis if you just listen to them.”

He was absolutely correct as so often this is true.

Integrity and high standards that I hold for others — I hold even higher for myself. I really take great care and time in treating my patients with absolute honesty and integrity and in a way that I would also want to be treated. When I am giving a patient bad news, have to discuss a difficult topic, or if we are discussing a new diagnosis with them, I am honest, and straightforward.

I always circle back at the end of a conversation with a patient to the beginning of our talk, to be sure that all of their questions are answered. If I do not know an answer they need help with, I tell them so and let them know that I will find out the answer for them… and then I do! This follow through is SO important in medicine!

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about minimizing medical burnout. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define “Physician and Healthcare Worker Burnout”? Does it just mean poor job satisfaction? Can you explain?

I know that physician and healthcare worker “burnout” is at an all time high right now. It does not just include poor job satisfaction although I think that can be included.

I think “burn out” stems from feeling the absolute exhaustion of that which is expected of us — which may actually be quite unrealistic expectations after all.

Burnout is being exhausted and feeling swamped ALL the time — this is burnout to me. One is “spent” with nothing left to give when they suffer from burnout.

In this day and time with recent events of the last two and a half years, with social media, easy online networking, instant grocery delivery, instant food restaurant delivery, text messages at all hours, and with emails waking us up in the middle of the night and being the first thing to be checked in the morning, burn out is so prevalent.

Often, our patients — while we love them and we want to take incredible care of them — have expectations that we can do everything with robotic speed. They often have such high standards that we often find ourselves unable to meet their expectations to get to everything they need at warp speed.

I hold very high standards for myself, and I am not one to let tasks go that can be addressed today, however, I think the expectations we humans have for each other are often not sustainable. This can lead to burn out as we are trying so hard to help our patients… but, let’s face it, at times the task is daunting and requires some due diligence on the part of the physician to do some homework. Or the work we need to do NOW seems insurmountable in the moment and can lead to burnout when we feel the defeat of not meeting, or being afraid of not meeting, our patients’ expectations.

In the last two and a half years I have talked with patients more and more about ways to cope and address this in their lives. In every single interview I have given in our community, both live and online, I discuss “bringing back the basics” — that is, meeting our basic needs… and keeping things simple:

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Exercise
  • Self-care

Sleeping, eating, exercising, and caring for oneself are needed for our focus right now so we can be sure that we can thrive and move forward and not get stuck or worse.

So if people can focus on my “back to the basics” then we can begin to heal ourselves and avoid burnout.

How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?

Feeling refreshed, getting normal sleep and feeling rested afterwards, eating regular and nutritious meals — while sitting down(!), being able to enjoy the daily rituals and routine of life and living, being able to really be present for family and friends and, most importantly, for YOU.

This is truly being engaged! 🙂

From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of Physician and Healthcare Worker Burnout?

I am in private practice so my viewpoint is very different from those of many with whom you will speak.

The main causes of burnout for me and for many of my colleagues in private practice include the following:

  • Prior authorizations (a management process used by insurance companies) — they are endless!
  • The bureaucracy of medicine.
  • Business people in suits like insurance and hospital execs without any medical knowledge trying to practice medicine (which is illegal by the way). They dictate what can and cannot be done for our patients as they are in the position to decide these things, which makes no sense to many with whom I speak, including myself.
  • Working with trying to get imaging, blood lab testing, and medicines approved through insurance for my patients when the cost of such does not warrant the hoops we have to jump through over and over again in order to get these needed steps/medications approved.
  • A generalized lack of kindness in society contributes to a general feeling of being absolutely unappreciated.
  • Bullying by patients, unfortunately, as it contributes to a generalized sense of burnout as we are truly trying so hard to help here. We also realize this behavior is indicative of a much larger problem with the lack of transparency in health care, with people’s insurance benefits (or lack thereof) and not understanding them, and the other reasons mentioned above that cause issues at a personal level — people feel so frustrated.

Have you seen burnout impact your own organization? Can you give a first hand description of how burnout can impact the operations of an organization?

My private practice has had to flex somewhat during this time to avoid burnout. We have had to take some “time outs” to take care of ourselves when things have gotten tough, so to speak, like when we’ve had a disproportionately high amount of the above contributing causes to burnout.

Does your practice currently offer any mental health resources for providers or clinical staff? We’d love to hear about it.

We are a very small practice so we do not have any systems in place, but we DO take flex time when needed.

In my work I have found that streamlining operational efficiency with digital transformation and automated processes helps to ease the workload of providers and clinical staff. Has that been your experience as well? Do you think that streamlining operational efficiency can be one of the tools to minimize medical burnout? We’d love to hear your perspective.

So many of the patients in my practice really appreciate our hands-on approach without the technology automating every move, every reminder, every call.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 3 things that hospitals and medical practices can do to reduce physician and healthcare worker burnout?

  • Flex time: allow it, embrace it!
  • Cross train: So many people are afraid to take a personal day or a day
    off from work because they worry that their plate will be so much more full upon their return. They also don’t want to burden their co-workers with taking care of “to dos” in their absence — so cross train so that when one person is absent or out for a personal day, the organization is affected less and all others can and will step in to help. This will also result in patients being affected less and the person who was absent is not inundated with so much with their “to do” pile when they return.
  • Categorize according to the Eisenhower Matrix, developed by President Eisenhower, who is known for many accomplishments:
  • Important, urgent
  • Important, not urgent
  • Not important, urgent
  • And not important, not urgent

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?

Encourage them to take time for themselves, promote self care. Reach out to them just to check in on them. Go for a walk and invite your stressed out friend to go with you!

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

They go “ALL IN” on something else and replace the prior activity that was consuming them with something else. Avoidance or distraction does not prevent burnout.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“This too shall pass” because… it does.

Don’t panic when your plate is full when you get to the clinic. It’s okay, really. The next 12 hours will pass no matter what so enjoy it some and don’t be upset. Try to enjoy your day instead.

The sun goes down at night and comes up in the morning if we are fortunate to see another day. What didn’t get done will be there tomorrow, and what did get done won’t, and it will all be OK regardless. If you are using the Eisenhower Matrix for decision making then you won’t miss any important and urgent deadlines either. 🙂

Ok, we are nearly done. Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Before you speak, THINK.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit my Ask The Doctor page here: This is where I answer questions about my views about health and wellness matters from the public.

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!

About The Interviewer: Dan Rodrigues is the founder and CEO of Kareo, a Tebra company, a leading provider of cloud-based clinical and practice management software solutions for independent healthcare practices and billing companies. Rodrigues is known for his visionary leadership in the healthcare technology industry. Rodrigues’ future-forward expertise has led companies such as Scour and Skematix. He is highly committed to providing patients with a seamless, digital experience in healthcare. Rodrigues’ business insights have been featured in publications including Forbes, Fierce Healthcare, and AP News.

Minimizing Medical Burnout: Dr Brynna Connor Of NorthWestPharmacy On How Hospitals and Medical P was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.