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What is Physician Wellness? Part I: An Introduction

February 27th, 2019

Jason Horay, MS, CHES

Every day, doctors make sacrifices in pursuit of the care and healing of others. Medicine is their calling, and they will go to incredible lengths to help patients achieve health and happiness, often at the expense of their own mental and physical well-being. This cycle leaves many physicians feeling empty and frustrated—feelings that can jeopardize the quality of the care they deliver and can even impede their ability to enjoy their lives outside of the exam room.

To help practice leaders understand how to most effectively approach the crisis of physician burnout, we are excited to introduce a new content series that focuses on the many dimensions of medical professional well-being. Over the next few months this series will discuss concepts that help practice leaders cultivate work environments that allow healthcare professionals to become their best selves. But first, let’s begin by defining “wellness.”

Wellness is the active pursuit of the understanding and fulfillment of individual human needs, and the achievement of true wellness enables people to realize their full potential. Successful wellness initiatives support employee needs in seven areas:

  1. Health: Finding strength and energy from the body and mind, far beyond the absence of mental and physical illness.
  2. Meaning: Being part of something bigger than themselves. Knowing that their work matters and creating purpose.
  3. Safety: Knowing that they are safe from physical and psychological harm at work. Feeling secure enough to take calculated risks and show vulnerability. Free from concern about meeting basic needs.
  4. Connection: Establishing and maintaining positive, trusting relationships with others and experiencing a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support.
  5. Achievement: Having the support, resources, and autonomy to achieve goals. Succeeding at meeting individual goals and work aspirations.
  6. Growth: Feeling like they are progressing in their career. Learning and being challenged to use and expand on individual strengths.
  7. Resiliency: Viewing life with optimism. Feeling grateful and expressing appreciation. Feeling validated and encouraged.

We believe that comprehensive, systematic, and sustained wellness efforts significantly improve the well-being of medical professionals. A balanced approach is necessary to build a stable foundation that will drive sustained improvements in physician wellness and the performance of our care organizations. All of us who work in healthcare owe it to ourselves, to our patients, and to the next generation to work together to improve our practices, organization culture, and individual selves.

Be sure to check back on our blog in the coming weeks for future installments of this series.

Jason Horay is Medical Mutual’s Health Promotion Program Manager, based in Raleigh, NC.

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