While we rely on physicians to diagnose and treat the ailments and health issues of their patients, many physicians find themselves dealing with the effects of this demanding line of work in the form of burnout. For more than a decade, Adventist Health System has been on the leading edge of efforts to prevent and address physician burnout, and a recent national study published by Medscape underscores the health system’s persistent focus on physician well-being.
The National Physician Burnout and Depression Report, part of Medscape’s annual Physician Lifestyle Report, surveyed more than 15,000 physicians from 29 specialties. It found that 42 percent of physicians reported burnout, and 15 percent reported experiencing either clinical or informal depression.
Though these latest revelations may be surprising to some, Adventist Health System has been focused on physician well-being through the identification and treatment of burnout since the early 2000s. Under the leadership of Ted Hamilton, MD, its senior vice president of mission and ministry and chief mission integration officer, the organization approaches physician well-being in the same way it cares for patients. And true to its culture of whole-person health, Adventist Health System provides support services and resources for physicians that care for mind, body and spirit.
“At the end of the day, health care is about people taking care of people. Our patients depend on our physicians to care for them, and we have put the onus on ourselves to care for our physicians so that they can live abundant, fulfilled lives, and also deliver the best care possible for patients,” said Hamilton.
A catalyst for this effort is Adventist Health System’s Center for Physician Well-Being (CPWB). Formed in 2004, the CPWB offers confidential counseling as well as preventative and therapeutic services. This includes family counseling, seminars, retreats and training. All of these emphasize health, balance and self-care practices to help prevent, identify and mitigate burnout while promoting overall wellness.
In addition to resources provided through the CPWB, Adventist Health System has begun administering a yearly physician well-being survey, and also hosts its annual Physician Well-Being Conference. The conference is a multiday gathering of physicians from across the organization featuring speakers, research, sessions and best-practice sharing.
Adventist Health System is also working to help encourage wellness among physicians on a broader scale. As a founding sponsor of the Coalition for Physician Well-Being, it has joined with others to promote the professional, personal and spiritual fulfillment of physicians. Members are able to take part in monthly webinars, an annual national conference and other offerings that cover a broad range of topics pertinent to understanding physician well-being. The Coalition also created the Medicus Integra© Award, which formally recognizes hospitals and health care institutions that demonstrate a significant, purposeful and ongoing commitment to the well-being of physicians.
“Everything we have done to enhance the well-being of physicians reflects our desire to foster wholeness as an extension of our mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ,” added Hamilton. “Through the work we have done in our system, as well as what we are doing alongside other organizations with the Coalition, we believe lasting impacts can be made that ultimately enhance the overall health and wellness of individuals, families and communities.”