“In taking just a moment to pause and reflect, we can restore what Rachel Naomi Remen, MD calls "the awe and mystery" of our work. We become whole again, and in doing so, realize our true calling and the Joy of Practice. My goal as President of the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians is to assist each of you in recapturing that Joy of Practice.”
David M. Deci, MD,
This page offers resources for physicians of all ages and career stages to help you find joy and meaning in your work. Below, find information on the meaning of joy in medical practice, the immediate crisis of physician burnout, tools for transforming your practice into a less stressful work environment, strategies to embrace meaning and awareness in your own life, and more.
Physician Wellness and Burnout
Physician wellness is a booming issue today, with more studies revealing high rates of burnout, frustration, and dissatisfaction with work. Learn how this epidemic came into being, and how we are beginning to take steps to address it.
Why do physicians suffer from burnout, and what are we doing about it? An in-depth two-part series explores the causes of the epidemic and how individuals and organizations are tackling burnout head-on.
Burnout is startlingly common among physicians, and recognizing it is the first step to overcoming burnout and regaining joy. If you think that you or someone you know might be burned out, try this short, self-score assessment to find out more.
We all intuitively know what burnout looks like, but the progression of the main symptoms- exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy- may not be the same for everyone. Learn about the early warning signs and how to make a change before it gets too far.
Finding Joy In Practice
“We heal with our presence. In order to help others to heal we need to bring our wholeness into the examining room with us, our strengths, our courage, our caring, and even our anger and fears and doubts.”
Rachel Remen, MD,
Regaining joy in practice is crucial, but not a simple task. Preventing burnout starts with the individual physician and the attitudes that they bring to their practice and daily life. Many physicians have found that focusing on meaning, mindfulness, and resilience skills greatly help as they seek joy in their work. Check out a few tools below.
Wisconsin Medical Society recently surveyed physicians to find what factors in the workplace are most satisfying and least satisfying. See their results and opportunities to make change. [COLEMAN]
While physicians can certainly make changes in their own lives to create balance and joy, the problem of burnout won’t disappear unless employers and medical educators also embrace a physician wellness as a priority. Here’s what a few employers, residency programs, and medical schools are doing to combat burnout in the workplace and help train happier doctors.
Residents understand the problem of burnout and have many ideas, some large and some easy to implement, on how to create a healthier, more successful educational experience. Here are some of their ideas.
Resources for Students and Residents
“[M]eet the exigencies of practice with firmness and courage, without, at the same time, hardening ‘the human heart by which we live.’”
William Osler MD,
Medical students have always had to weigh the disheartening rigors of clinical training with the idealism that drive them to medicine originally. Fellow students and residents offer advice on surviving the challenges of medical education with your sense of humanism and compassion unscathed.
Students risk losing the humanistic values that drew them to medicine when they encounter the “hidden curriculum” of medical education that emphasizes detachment and competence over compassion. Learn how this might be at play in your education, and how to immunize yourself from its effects.
- Article: Medical education
- Article: Vanquishing Virtue: The Impact of Medical Education
Medical students have a bad habit of mentally living in the future and planning for the next step at the expense of being aware of the present. Here’s a medical student perspective on how mindfulness can make you a better doctor and help you live a happier life.
Resources for New Physicians
Physicians just starting their careers face significant changes to their work and home life. With the intense demands of finding a job and getting established in your practice, it’s easy to become stressed, discouraged, and burned out. Here are some resources on how to start your career on the right foot and set yourself up for a meaningful, fulfilling career and life.
Being a physician in a rural environment comes with its own set of challenges. Here’s stories of how rural female doctors build successful, fulfilling practices and also engage with family and other commitments.
- Article: Rural Women Family Physicians: Strategies for Success-ful Work-Life Balance
- Blog post: Support, Flexibility at Home, Work Vital to Success in Rural Practice
Resources for Mid-Career and Older Physicians
Mid-career physicians often experience high levels of stress and burnout, while older physicians appear to be more resilient to the effects of burnout. These doctors attribute their happiness to greater life experience and clinical wisdom that helps them find meaning and joy in their work. Below, successful physicians share stories of how they found happiness throughout their careers.
source: Secrets to psychological success: why older doctors might have lower psychological distress and burnout than younger doctors. Peisah C, Latif E, Wilhelm K, Williams B. Aging Ment Health. 2009 Mar;13(2):300-7.
Burnout expert Dr. Dike Drummond has gone from a burned-out physician to a wellness coach helping other doctors recover from burnout and find happiness in their careers. For practical tips, see his articles, which were recently featured in Family Practice Management.
The majority of Wisconsin physicians are employed by groups of 50 or more, and this employment situation brings unique challenges for physicians. This is how employed physicians can create balance and avoid burnout.
Physicians who are burned out often ignore the signs until it becomes unbearable. Here’s one physician’s story of how he experienced burnout after years of practice, and how you can identify and stop burnout before it gets too late.
How successful physicians stay human and find meaning in their work despite the challenges of the job.
- Article: What are the habits of highly humanistic physicians
- Article: Attitudes and Habits of Highly Humanistic Physicians
Is this information helpful to you? What additional resources would you like to see here?
How do you find joy in your practice?