Actor Michael Conrad portrayed Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on the vintage TV cop show “Hill Street Blues” and had a piece of advice for his fictional police officers hitting the street each day.
His famous line could be applied today -- not only to police and other emergency service workers, but also to medical and veterinary doctors.
The Wisconsin Medical Society recently conducted a survey of 1,165 Wisconsin physicians to assess the severity of physician burnout and its contributing factors.
Based on survey responses, the major contributors to physician burnout include:
• Frustration with electronic health records (EHR), combined with increasing insurance and government regulations.
• Loss of autonomy and lack of a supportive practice environment.
• Poor work/life balance.
“These findings aren’t that surprising,” said Society CEO Clyde “Bud” Chumbley, MD, MBA. “Practicing medicine has changed tremendously in the last decade, particularly in Wisconsin with the emergence of increasingly large health systems. The physician/patient relationship is increasingly influenced by the EHR and health system policies and not always for the best.”
Likewise, a recent survey of veterinarians found a high rate of depression and even suicide among veterinarians because of stressful, life-or-death decisions made by veterinarians. Many of those decisions have devastating consequences on families who have to make decisions about the future of their family pets.
Recognizing the consequences of trauma as well as life-or-death decisionmaking, the Sun Prairie Police Department made the decision to implement a police chaplain program in 2016.
The chaplains assisted officers in maintaining a work-life balance. In training sessions with the chaplains, officers learned to trust the chaplains, who in turn learned the terminology associated with law enforcement.
That all changed on July 10, 2018, when a natural gas explosion destroyed five buildings in downtown Sun Prairie, killed Capt. Cory Barr of the Sun Prairie Fire Department, injured several people and left a huge civic scar.
Police chaplains provided their assistance -- not only to police officers, but also to Sun Prairie Fire and EMS personnel who knew and worked with Barr.
As a result of that successful interaction, the former Sun Prairie Police Chaplains are now Sun Prairie Emergency Services Chaplains.
You may think it’s a simple progression of services, but it’s a little more than that. It’s also an indication that when a police officer is hurt, their comrades in the other emergency services feel the pain. It’s the ultimate elevation of being a team, and all three chiefs -- Fire Chief Chris Garrison, EMS Chief Brian Goff and Police Chief Patrick Anhalt -- are to be commended for promoting and nurturing this sense of camaraderie. Chaplains also demonstrate a sense of care -- not only for emergency service providers, but also fellow human beings who are exposed to horrific experiences and corresponding life-or-death decision-making.
Sun Prairie should be thankful for its chaplains. Hopefully, doctors and veterinarians will soon have the same availability to chaplains or others who will act in a similar manner.
Oh yes, the line Conrad made famous in “Hill Street Blues” that still applies today? “Let’s be careful out there.”