Physicians working in the current healthcare environment are under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, and as a result, a condition commonly referred to as ‘physician burnout’ is becoming an ongoing concern in the medical field. Trying to manage the stress of patient cases and administrative tasks, on top of balancing the challenges of everyday life, are among the reasons why physicians are feeling the pressure.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 300-400 physicians die by suicide annually. That’s almost a doctor a day. As mentioned in the April 2016 issue of U.S. News & World Report, physicians have higher rates of depression, divorce, and substance addiction than the general population, and 50-70% of doctors suffer from ‘burnout syndrome’. A growing body of research shows that physician burnout and depression are linked to medical errors and to the kind of depersonalized care that is often both less effective and less palatable.
When the praise turns into stress
Health care professionals are inspired to serve their patients and profession. But in the process of caring for their patient’s needs, the care provider is subject to many stressors, and often neglects their own health. While putting their needs last may seem heroic and praiseworthy, this can compromise clinicians’ personal well-being, and may lead to:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Moral distress
- Compassion fatigue
- Poor clinical decisions
- Medical errors
- Loss of sense of self and purpose
- Lack of a sense of personal achievement
- Suicidal tendencies
Health and Happiness start with you
By sacrificing their own well-being, health care providers are adversely compromising the quality of care they provide to their patients. As a doctor, you must remember that before you can take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.
Dr Susmitha Jasty, a practicing gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, New York, says, “One cannot serve from empty vessel. Historically, physicians are caregivers, but we don’t always take good care of ourselves. When we invest in self-care, we typically become better role models for our patients and our families and experience less stress and burnout. When we overlook these priorities, we might become wealthier, but may do so at the cost of our health and happiness.
An interesting read in The Wall Street Journal mentions, “There’s a strong link between what doctors do themselves and what they tell their patients to do,” says Erica Frank, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia who was the principal investigator on the Women Physician’s Health Study (WPHS) which surveyed the health practices of 4,500 women doctors in the 1990s, and has studied U.S. medical students and Canadian doctors as well. “If we pay more attention to physicians’ health, we’ll have a patient population that is healthier.”
Another interesting article in New York Times points out, “It has been shown in some studies that if the physician is exercising, if the physician are taking care of themselves, eating well, sleeping better, they have patients who have better clinical outcomes,” said Dr. Hilary McClafferty, a pediatrician who is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.
In order to be truly effective in their work, physicians need to balance the demands of their work with self-care. This involves taking time off for introspection and self-care to replenish their personal reserve of adequate mental, emotional, and physical energy to stay clinically competent and present.
Caring for oneself to care for others: physicians and their self-care
The famous Wellness Wheel refers to 6 types of wellness – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational – and allows individuals to reflect on current life balance and self-care. Improving physicians’ wellness and implementing self-care strategies is a multifactorial process and includes attention to all these 6 types. Personal self-care refers to strategies for individual physicians to take better care of themselves.
According to a research study, strategies for personal self-care include prioritizing close relationships such as those with family; maintaining a healthy lifestyle by ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, and time for vacations; fostering recreational activities and hobbies; practicing yoga, deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation, as well as pursuing spiritual development.
Meditation over medication
According to the American Medical Association, burnout and ignoring the source of problems is not the way to wellness. Meditation can help to protect the mind, which can help healers to heal while they maintain personal well-being.
According to Psychology Today, 6.3 million Americans, or roughly 1 in 30 Americans, are being referred by doctors to practice activities like meditation. The high number of referrals shows that doctors are recognizing the benefits of meditation and yoga. A Harvard study shows that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response, and to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety.
Healing Breaths: from physician burnout to physician care
The Art of Living Foundation, a global pioneer in yoga and meditation for more than 35 years, offers the “Healing Breaths: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs” program for busy medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals seeking to build a proficient practice for self-care to enrich their quality of life and patient care. The tools and techniques taught in this retreat have been well researched and backed by many scientific studies at different universities world wide.
This retreat provides the health care provider an opportunity to learn yoga and meditation-based, simple hands-on self-care practices that
- Reduce stress, exhaustion and compassion fatigue
- Enhance physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being
- Enrich quality of life
- Improve ability for intuitive diagnosis, focus, concentration
- Help to navigate the challenges of personal as well as professional life with more tranquility and dynamism resulting into improved performance
- The retreat also provides physicians and allied health professionals with an update on the latest research in yoga, breathing practices, and meditation, as well as their therapeutic applications, including benefits and risks.
Earn CME/CNE Credits while you learn
Recognizing the importance and essentiality of self-care for physicians, the NYU Post-Graduate Medical School designates this program 10-30 CME credits. By attending this program HCP not only learn excellent self-care tools, but also earns 10-30 CME / CNE credits as provided by NYU Post-Graduate Medical School.
This course, which is designed for physicians, medical students, residents, fellows, osteopath practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied HCPs and complementary and alternative medical practitioners, is offered in various locations in the USA throughout the year by the Art of Living Foundation.