Preventing burnout in medical residents and fellows: 6 keys for wellness

AMA Wire
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What’s just as important to the wellness of physician trainees as a supportive work environment? According to a new expert-authored solution for preventing resident and fellow burnout, tools to develop personal well-being also should be an essential part of residency programs. Learn the six key aspects for resident and fellow well-being and some of the tools programs should provide to help their trainees thrive.

A multifaceted concept

Wellness is more than the absence of physical ailments. For physicians in training who have a multitude of pressures and responsibilities bearing down on them, it’s important to be mindful of the various components that contribute to overall well-being.

A new online module in the AMA’s STEPS Forward™ collection explains what is needed to prevent burnout among physician trainees, based on lessons learned by successful residency wellness programs. To foster true personal wellness, residents’ needs must be met in these key areas:

  • Nutrition. Despite hectic and often irregular schedules, residents need healthful food options and scheduled time to eat. Physician authors of the STEPS Forward module suggest that once residency programs have formed a wellness team, a focus point for the team should be ensuring that residents have nutritious food available while they are on the job.
  • Fitness. Staying physically active is an important key to supporting good health, but it can be tough to do with all the demands placed on residents’ time. The module recommends that training programs should make sure residents have free access to a gym that is located in or near the medical center to remove some of the barriers to staying fit.
  • Emotional health. Residency programs should support wellness tactics that residents can apply on an individual level, including identifying personal and professional conflicts, nurturing relationships, and practicing mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques. The module advises that the wellness team should encourage trainees and empower them to seek and offer help as needed. Another suggestion is to develop a physician support group for trainees and faculty members.
  • Preventive care. As a medical professional, you know the importance of preventive care for keeping patients healthy. But do you take the time to make sure you’re getting the well care you need, such as keeping regular appointments with your primary care physician and dentist? The module recommends that program leadership commit to giving trainees an occasional weekday afternoon off for personal meetings or their own doctor appointments.
  • Financial health. As a resident, you most likely have a limited income, massive med school debt and maybe even a growing family to support. Making sure that you’re financially secure in your day-to-day activities and prepared for unexpected events is an important part of maintaining peace of mind and ensuring future wellness. The module suggests that one way residency programs can help trainees with financial health is to bring in a financial counselor for informal discussions with interested residents.
  • Mindset and behavior adaptability. Understanding how to thrive in your environment is essential. The module advises that residency programs help their trainees learn techniques to adapt their daily routine around factors that are outside of their control, such as their work schedules.

Make wellness at your program a priority

If your training program doesn’t have a successful wellness program in place, the AMA STEPS Forward module offers five concrete steps to create a wellness culture for residents and fellows. It also provides wellness assessment tools, case studies of successful wellness programs for trainees and suggestions for wellness activities.

Additional resources to help boost your personal well-being

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The Birnott should be applying to medical students and practicing physicians as well as residents and interns!<br/> With the advent of the affordable care act --ACA , there is more pressure on family physicians and internist to complete electronic medical record of their patients new and established.<br/> <br/> The input of electronic medical records done in an office setting with the patient violates the doctor-patient relationship---very little eye to eye contact as a result of typing a record in front of the patient is very impersonable. Of course, the physician cannot be examining the patient well he is typing patient's physical findings. My experience as a family physician and as a patient is that the examining physician has to do a very cursory examination including a judgment of the patient's emotional state. There is no time in the 15 to 20 minute office exam. to adequately examine a patient after obtaining a history with a review of symptoms, history , and review of medicines. <br/> <br/> This leads to a very unprofessional and unsatisfactory – incomplete exam.<br/> <br/> This is not the way I was taught in medical school – 1965 to 1969 in Philadelphia.<br/> <br/> This is the one of the reasons that I felt the burn out as a result of the demise of the doctor-patient relationship. <br/> <br/> A better method must be adopted and presented to primary care physicians in order to prevent burnout.<br/> <br/> John J. Shigo, MD <br/> January 24, 2016
This is a good list. I'd add this - pick a trustworthy teammate in different areas of your life and stay in contact.<br/> <br/> Nutrition, exercise, financial mentor and maybe as big as any, a personal, private one-on-one stress/burnout and anger specialist who will be there anytime of day or night for you to guide you through the difficult, painful or weak times.<br/> <br/> Do that and you are putting on emotional and physical armor to stay healthy and make it through your residency.<br/> <br/> Protect your emotional state and you protect your physical being during what can be extreme training.<br/> <br/> Michael Toebe
Show Comments (2)
Apr 25, 2017
UME and GME need to move beyond a culture that sees med students and residents as different species and find a common language—and metrics—for both.