Burnout is defined as a state of physical and mental exhaustion combined with self-doubt about professional competence. Sadly, burnout is an increasingly well-known phenomenon in today’s workplace. Furthermore, a growing body of research demonstrates that physicians are more prone to burnout than those in other professions. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, burnout affects an estimated 25 to 60 percent of all physicians. In addition, a study recently published in Academic Medicine found that approximately 15 to 20 percent of physicians will have mental health problems at some point in their careers.
Resilience is the capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way such that goals are achieved at minimal psychological and physical cost; resilient individuals “bounce back” after challenges while also growing stronger. Resilience is a key to enhancing quality of care, quality of caring, and sustainability of the health care workforce. Two of the most effective strategies to enhance physicians’ resilience are mindfulness training and practical mental training. In addition, these strategies typically enhance providers’ sense of satisfaction with their medical practice environment and help providers develop greater personal and professional insight.
The first step in practical mental training is to recognize that the way we think, including our thought patterns, are deeply ingrained. Consequently, “reframing” the situation and “re-wiring” our thought patters requires deliberate, intentional effort, founded on a foundation of self-awareness. This module aims to provide a framework to start this journey.
To begin, please start by watching the above TED talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work.”
Next, consider the following questions and write down your answers (nothing too involved, just initial thoughts):
1. Suppose a young person is considering medicine as a career and asks for your advice. What would you say?
2. If a resident asks you about physician resilience—how to avoid stress and burnout—what kind of advice would you offer?
3. Making clinical errors is often a source of stress. How have you dealt with this in the past and what did you learn from that experience that you can use in future situations?
4. Keeping up in medicine can be a difficult task. How do you manage this?
During our gathering, we will discuss the following prompts:
- How can I take care of myself so that I can be of service to others?
- How can I strive for excellence and at the same time have compassion for myself when I don’t have all the answers or I make a mistake?
- How can I offer my expertise in order to cure illness and at the same time stay open to what my patients have to teach me about their own healing?
- How can I maintain an empathetic connection with my patients and at the same time protect myself?
Included in this module are a couple of references for further reading.
At the completion of this session, moving forward we propose asking the following questions to raise self-awareness, allow reflection, and take the first steps towards building your resiliency:
- What did I learn today? Would I do anything differently?
- What three things am I grateful for today? What inspired me?
- How did I talk to myself today? Did I take myself too seriously? Did anything surprise me?
In addition, we propose the following action steps to improve your overall quality of life:
- Find ways to add humor and laughter into your day and week,
- Choose to live less financially affluently,
- Plan a daily self-care activity (recreation, exercise, a shared meal with friends or family, massage, spiritual practice, etc.).