Burnout, defined as physical and mental exhaustion combined with self-doubt about professional competence is sadly an increasingly well-known phenomenon in today’s workplace. This is of particular concern for physicians, 25-60 percent of whom will experience burnout in the course of their careers, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine. This and other factors likely contribute to the high rates of mental illness among physicians (as high as 15-20% incidence over a career according to a study recently published in Academic Medicine).
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 not only “bounce back” after challenges; they also grow stronger from overcoming them. 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 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 patterns requires deliberate, intentional effort, founded on a foundation of self-awareness. This session 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 come prepared to discuss your thoughts:
- If a first-year medical student asked you about resilience—how to avoid stress and burnout—what kind of advice would you offer?
- Keeping up in medicine can be a difficult task. How do you manage this?
- What do you do to take care of yourself so that you can be of service to others?
- How can you strive for excellence and at the same time have compassion for yourself when you don’t have all the answers or 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?
At the completion of this session, moving forward we propose asking the following questions to raise self-awareness, allow reflection, and facilitate building your resilience:
- What did I learn today? What surprised me?
- What three things am I grateful for today? What inspired me?
- How did I talk to myself today? What did I do well?