The American Medical Association (AMA) recently recognized Wake Forest School of Medicine for its efforts to improve physician satisfaction and fight physician burnout. One of only 22 health care institutions in the country to receive the inaugural AMA Joy in Medicine™ Recognition, the medical school was honored at the Bronze level for its efforts.
Why should we care about physician well-being?
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in a few years our aging population will affect our physician supply. One third of active physicians will be older than 65 in the next decade, which means we will have fewer doctors to take care of us.
There are already shortages especially in smaller cities and rural areas where physician recruitment is challenging, and health care is most needed. To further compound the issue, there are indications that currently employed physicians are considering cutting back their clinical hours or leaving the profession.
In 2017, Mayo Clinic researchers conducted a survey of 6,695 physicians and found almost 1 in 5 planned to cut back their clinical hours within the next year and more than 1 in 4 said they planned to leave their current practice in the next two years.
According to Wake Forest School of Medicine officials, supporting physician well-being is key to the continuity of high-quality health care in our communities. The alternative is not an option. A few years ago, Wake Forest School of Medicine began looking directly at physician stressors. They started at the source.
“We surveyed both our residents and their spouses to determine the most common issues and stressors that our physicians and their families faced,” said Cormac O’Donovan, MD, associate professor of neurology, Wake Forest Baptist Health. “We found that the most mentioned issue was the time that it took to complete documentation in electronic medical records. “This task takes away time with patients and families and lengthens the workday,” O’Donovan said, an early and long-time advocate for a physician health and well-being program. As founder of the North Carolina Consortium for Physician Resilience and Retention, O’Donovan has worked for several years on this cause at local, state and national levels.
“This needed to be addressed at the institution level,” said Suzanne Danhauer, PhD, vice chair and director of faculty well-being and resilience at Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Having Danhauer in place and leading the faculty well-being and resilience efforts has been key to creating new strategies that work to be scaled across Wake Forest Baptist’s health care system, said Lynn Anthony, MD, senior associate dean of faculty affairs at the medical school.
“We are early to the process. We had some strategies in place for quite some time and are creating new programs that build on our existing career and professional development programs,” Danhauer said. “We are very enthusiastic about our faculty peer support program, which trains faculty to provide caring, empathy and support to other faculty members – largely physicians and scientists. It helps to have a sounding board, a safe place to share. These faculty peer supporters can help provide that. We all need that.”