For those working in the medical field, putting in long hours and working when ill
or fatigued was part of the culture, often occurring at the expense of sleep, time
with friends and family, and their own wellness.
But that is starting to change.
In response to data on high rates of physician burnout, depression and suicide, the
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has held two symposia on physician
well-being. Now, there is an increased focus on the need for individual and organizational
strategies to enhance physician resilience and well-being, said Janet Serwint, MD,
FAAP, pediatric residency program director at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
And that’s a good thing, said Dr. Serwint, whose passion for physician wellness was
sparked during her own residency more than 26 years ago. Until recently, however,
she was ahead of her time.
“For a long time, people didn’t really pay as much attention to this and now all of
a sudden this is the new hottest topic,” Dr. Serwint said. “It’s very rewarding to
me, something I’ve been committed to for a long time coming into its own.”
Dr. Serwint is among the presenters at the Pediatrics for the 21st Century (Peds 21)
program “Pediatricians Leading Change in Physician Health and Wellness (C0017)” from
11:30 am to 5:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 15. She will present the keynote address titled
“Caring for Ourselves to Care for Children” and will participate in a panel discussion
on approaches to wellness that will address individual and organizational strategies,
creating a practice centered on wellness, and medical education.
Other presentations include:
“The Culture of Health Care: How We Are Making Ourselves Unwell,” by Hilary McClafferty
“Wellness, Burnout, and the Link to Quality Care,” by David Schonfeld, MD, FAAP; and
“Recognizing Burnout in Yourself and Colleagues,” by Carol Bernstein, MD
Part of the increased focus on physician wellness stems from research showing that
burnout is prevalent at all career stages. In addition, an estimated 300-400 physicians
commit suicide each year.
Dr. Serwint said she believes long hours aren’t the only reason for the high burnout
rate. Other factors at play include spending a lot of time on tasks that don’t involve
patient care like electronic health record documentation.
Those who attend Peds 21 will learn about the scope of the problem as well as practical
strategies to promote physician wellness at the individual and organizational levels.
“To me, what is challenging about wellness strategies is one size doesn’t fit all,”
Dr. Serwint said. “What might work for me may not fit for you and vice versa. For
individual strategies, people have to find their own way.”
She also emphasized the importance of role modeling.
“If you see the faculty who you admire working really hard or not paying attention
to health, that’s a model you will emulate,” Dr. Serwint said.
She and other pediatric residency program directors are trying to determine the best
ways to incorporate physician wellness into training.
“Physicians tend to practice in the way they were trained,” she said. “If we’re laying
the foundation for physicians in training to be mindful about resilience and well-being,
I think it’s going to result in a better workforce down the road.”