As a case in point, he cited recent efforts to limit work hours.
“There were times when programs were told to do one thing, and they said that that’s what they were doing, but … everybody knew that culturally that was a no-no,” Dr. Murthy said. “So we have to root out that culture of excessive self-sacrifice and excessive self-negligence. Because that’s really what it is: We’re neglecting ourselves and our well-being.”
Self-neglect might seem like a noble practice in service of one’s patients, he said, but it’s ultimately detrimental to the profession “because nobody wants a doctor who is burned out and bitter and cynical.”
It also hurts the profession by corrupting the sense of medicine as a calling that physicians and medical students ought to have.
“When they’re thinking about a career in medicine, nobody wants to hear, ‘You know what, the glory days are behind us. You should look for something else,’” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of students are hearing these days.”
Medical students as change agents
“You can make the profession more hospitable by helping shift the culture around self-care and emotional well-being,” Dr. Murthy told the audience.
“In the hierarchy of medicine, it may feel like … you don’t have as much of a voice,” he said. “But I have seen more and more examples of where medical student and resident leadership has, in fact, changed how business is done.
“That change should ideally come from the top, but we can’t wait for it to always come from the top. It has to come from the people who are most impacted.”
What the Code says
The AMA Code of Medical Ethics offers guidance on physician well-being. In Opinion 9.3.1, “Physician health and wellness,” the Code explains:
When physician health or wellness is compromised, so may the safety and effectiveness of the medical care provided. To preserve the quality of their performance, physicians have a responsibility to maintain their health and wellness, broadly construed as preventing or treating acute or chronic diseases, including mental illness, disabilities and occupational stress.
Read more from this opinion.
- Beating burnout: Confidential access to health services for trainees
- Medical school burnout: How to take care of yourself
- Stopping burnout a top priority for physicians in training
- Medical residents ward off physician burnout with peer network
- How physician burnout compares to general working population