We spend years of intense training and devote our lives to caring for the sick and wounded. We are problem solvers, care-takers, bearers of bad news and beacons of hope. We are busy, pressed for time, perhaps overwhelmed. We may forget (and perhaps others forget) that we are human; that we, just like our patients, can get sick, and perhaps suffer from addiction or mental or emotional health problems. We may try to hide it; and in hiding it, may ultimately cause harm to those to whom we have sworn “to do no harm”.
We…that’s us. You and me. Medical students, residents, attending physicians. None of us are immune.
- What defines an “impaired” physician?
- How do we recognize impairment and under-performance in our colleagues, and in ourselves?
- How do we distinguish impairment from incompetence?
- What are the risk factors for physician impairment? For burn-out?
- What is the burden of physician impairment in our community? Our military? Our society at large?
- How can we promote physician health at all levels (medical school, residency, and beyond)?
Impairment in healthcare professionals occurs at all levels, including both trainees and seasoned clinicians. We want to get this often stigmatized and hidden issue out in the open, in hopes of being better able to recognize, address and prevent it. This session is devoted to you, to me, to our fellow healthcare team members, to our loved ones, and most certainly, to our patients.
1. Read “Dealing with the Impaired Physician” (AAFP link above) and read/listen to at least 2 other sources above prior to the panel session/small group. Review the other sources provided as time allows. Feel free to bring your own references (journal articles, etc) relating to physician health or impairment.
2. Reflect on personal experiences either during medical school (or prior if applicable) when you or a friend or colleague may have been impaired in any way; this might even include a time where you felt “burned out” and were at risk of under-performing. Consider your reactions (toward yourself or an impaired friend or colleague); how did your reactions affect how you or others addressed the situation?
3. Come to small groups ready to discuss the questions found in the above “Background” discussion. If you feel comfortable sharing a personal experience with impairment or perhaps with burn-out, you may do so, but this is not required.
(there is no paper, just a small group participation grade)
- LtCol Christopher Jonas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine. He has deployed in support of OIF and worked at the White House Medicine Unit.
- Mr. Jay Hardin is a licensed clinical social worker and Service Chief of Addiction Treatment Services at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is also currently serving as Interim Chair of the Provider Wellness Committee at WRNMMC.
By the end of the small group session on “Physician Health, Impairment & Resilience”, students will demonstrate the ability to:
- Understand the definition of “impairment” as it pertains to healthcare professional; recognize risk factors and warning signs of impairment.
- Reflect on personal experiences either during medical school (or prior if applicable) when they were personally impaired, or at risk of impairment. If applicable, reflect on experiences during the clerkship year when they observed another student or supervising resident or attending who was impaired. Analyze their own reactions and how their personal context affected how they thought about or addressed impairment in themselves or others.
- Explore avenues for addressing impairment and for confronting a fellow impaired physician.
- Reflect on the issue of “burn-out” amongst physicians and physicians in training. Resolve to maintain awareness of personal well-being and the well-being of colleagues.