A lot of attention is being directed towards Physician Wellness, and its opposing condition, Physician Burnout. And with good reason: evidence is mounting that highly stressed physicians may not provide high quality patient care. Physicians with burnout are more likely to self-report medical errors, have lower empathy scores, and have higher job dissatisfaction, which in turn results in lower patient satisfaction and a lower likelihood that patients will follow treatment recommendations. As we begin to understand the etiology and consequences of burnout, it becomes even more important to pursue prevention strategies.
Resilience is the burnout antidote. Three general themes arise when examining what determines resilience among physicians. First, there are job-related sources of gratification: finding meaning in relationships with patients and success in practice, in terms of efficacy (diagnostic, therapeutic, etc.). Second, there are practices or routines that physicians use to counteract stress, which include engaging in leisure-time activities, professional development, establishing boundaries between work and life and ensuring time with family and friends, and self-reflection, to name a few. Third, there is the adoption of certain attitudes, such as acceptance or realism (not engaging in wishful thinking), self-awareness, and recognition of when change is needed. I mentioned in a previous post that the ACP Board of Governors is pursuing a theme of “Restoring the Narrative”. This relates to the first theme, finding meaning in practice.
You might also remember that I distributed a questionnaire to explore some of these themes and the sources of burnout that you encounter. We will be reviewing the results of the survey at the Annual Chapter Meeting on October 30, so I hope you will be there!
Notably, ACP has established a new criterion for the Chapter Excellence Award: “the chapter has a practice satisfaction and/or physician wellness program which may include programs that promote resilience and practice efficiencies.” The Connecticut Chapter is developing a Physician Wellness Committee, and we are interested in your ideas about what form this might take. If you want to be involved with the committee, let me know!
Last, I refer you to the work of Drs. Christine Sinsky and Mark Linzer, who have been pioneers in this area: Christine Sinsky, In Search of Joy in Practice; Mark Linzer, Epidemic of Physician Burnout presentation. For those of you in the New Haven area, look for Dr. Sinsky to appear at Yale Medical Grand Rounds the first week in October.