The next time you’re speaking with two of your colleagues, consider this: One of you is likely to be experiencing burnout. The person experiencing burnout is emotionally exhausted, finds little meaning in his or her work and treats people as if they were objects.* It’s a pervasive problem in medicine, and it affects the ability to provide patient-centered care.
Stress is an inherent part of the work physicians do, and this won’t change. Yet studies show physicians who incorporate mindfulness strategies experience significant improvements in burnout scores and mental wellbeing. And physicians who rate themselves as more mindful tend to engage in more patient-centered communication, which correlates with increased patient satisfaction.
Like many academic medical centers across the country, the University of Colorado School of Medicine has developed programs aimed at increasing physician resiliency. Led by Jenny Reese, MD, and Abbie Beacham, PhD, the Resilience Program focuses on pragmatic, effective ways to help the busy physician be more mindful and derive more meaning from work. (Jenny Reese, MD, pictured on left)
“You chose this line of work for a reason,” said Dr. Reese. She likens one’s ability to reconnect with the joy of work with the experience of the perfect ski day.
“Maybe you took four or five amazing turns, fresh powder blowing in your face, and it’s perfect,” she said. “At some point in the day your toes probably got too cold or you took a fall. But it's those perfect moments of exquisite joy that made your day great.”
“Joy isn’t a place we arrive. Joy comes in moments,” said Beacham. “Our programs help you stop and recognize the joy of these small moments. The programs we’ve developed train you to take a moment to notice what’s great.” (Abbie Beacham, PhD, pictured on right)
If it sounds a little “woo-woo,” don’t worry. “Most people who come to our programs find them to be deeply pragmatic,” said Beacham. “Considering one of the primary hallmarks of burnout is the loss of meaning in your work, reconnecting with the reason you chose health care can benefit patient and provider alike.”
If you have 15 minutes, consider taking the Resilience Snap Shot. Within seven to 10 days, you’ll receive a quick overview of how well you are faring in important areas of your life. If you’d like, you can remain anonymous.
The program offers a 50 minute mini-series on topics such as mini-mindfulness, putting joy and gratitude to work, and finding your values compass.
Using a four week, empirically tested mindfulness course developed by Duke University physicians, the team will help you incorporate proven strategies for better sleep, less stress, increasing mindfulness and becoming compassionate with yourself. Day and evening programs are available. The winter session is already in progress but the spring schedule will be released soon.
Reach out to a peer who might be in need of support because of an adverse event, or consider talking to a trusted peer if you have experienced an adverse event yourself. Studies show that the most common desired form of support after experiencing an adverse clinical event is a trusted peer. This volunteer-based peer support program matches campus providers who have experienced an adverse clinical event with a peer supporter in a confidential, non-punitive manner. The program does not include formal behavioral health counseling, risk management or systematic problem solving; however, it works in conjunction with existing campus programs. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-724-1944.
This isn’t therapy in a traditional sense (although referrals may be given). This is meeting with a licensed psychologist to talk about finding balance and increasing your resilience and wellness. For more information about individual consultations email Abbie.Beacham@ucdenver.edu or call 303-724-1944.
The program also offers customizable workshops for teams and small groups. Anyone interested in bringing a resilience lecture or workshop to an upcoming meeting or retreat can email email@example.com.
* Enhancing Meaning in Work: A Prescription for Preventing Physician Burnout and Promoting Patient-Centered Care, JAMA (2009)
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View the CU Clinical Trials Website for volunteer opportunities.